The lives and deaths of many of the early martyrs are shrouded in mystery but we have a full eyewitness account of the suffering and death of Saint Felicity and Saint Perpetua whom we honour today. Both were pagans who converted to Christianity – they were condemned to be mauled by lions in the arena at Carthage in North Africa and then beheaded. You probably know that these two saints are associated with the Order of Preachers. When Saint Thomas Aquinas was inserted into the Roman Calendar his feast fell on the same day as these two martyrs. There was some movement of both feast days when the Tridentine calendar was established by the Dominican Pope Saint Pius V, but in 1969 Pope Paul VI restored the date of their feast to 7th March while Saint Thomas Aquinas was moved to 28th January. We honour Saint Felicity and Saint Perpetua for their courage in witnessing to Christ and for giving us an example to follow in our own lives of witness.
The internet is full of interesting information, but it’s hard to know what is true and what is false; for example, I read the other day that there are thousands of books about prayer available for sale on the Amazon website. That’s a lot of reading if you want to become an expert on prayer. And yet Our Lord covered the main points in just nine short sentences. He made it simple – pray to know God, his will, his provision, his forgiveness, his deliverance, and his protection. And at the top of the list are three simple words: “Thy kingdom come.”
Our Lord taught us to ask the Father that his eternal, unshakable, heavenly kingdom be extended to our temporal, unstable, earthly lives. Our Lord wants us to experience the blessings of his kingdom as we go through our everyday lives here and now.
Sometimes we get a glimpse of God’s kingdom: when we see someone healed or comforted through the power of prayer; when we are released from the grip of addiction, bitterness, or shame; or when we walk out of Confession knowing we are completely forgiven. The kingdom of God becomes visible through the lives of those who care for the least among us. We see it when justice is established in our communities, our churches, and our nations. We see it when people begin to live in unity, simplicity, and peace.
And yet as huge as the Kingdom of God is, it is founded on a one-to-one, personal relationship—the relationship of a child to a father. It’s a relationship of reverence, honour, trust, and familiarity. The kingdom of the world tells us to trust no one, and to be independent, and to forge our own destinies. But citizens of the kingdom of God declare: “Father, you are holy. May your will be done here and now.” This is what we pray for when we say those three simple words: “Thy kingdom come”—that we will see healing, deliverance, justice and peace take root in our world, and that we will experience righteousness, peace, and joy as the kingdom of God is established in our lives.