Fr. Fernand Mourret, S.S.
One of the most touching incidents of the outburst of Roman superstition under Marcus Aurelius was the martyrdom of St. Felicitas and her seven children at Rome, in AD 162. We are told by the Acts of her martyrdom:
She had remained a widow, and had consecrated her chastity to God. Night and day she spent in prayer, and was an edification for pure souls. The pagan pontiffs, seeing that, owing to her, the fair repute of the Christian name had increased, spoke of her to Antoninus Augustus, saying: "This widow and her sons insult our gods, angering them so much that there will be no way to appease them." The Emperor sent Publius, the prefect of the city, instructing him to force Felicitas to sacrifice to the gods. To the prefect's first urging, the brave matron replied: "Your threats cannot make me change my resolve, nor can your promises seduce me. I have within me the Holy Ghost, who will not permit that I be overcome by the demon." Then said Publius: "Wretched woman, though you find it sweet to die, at least let your sons live." "I know," answered Felicitas, "that my sons will live if they consent to sacrifice to the idols; but, should they commit this crime, they will go to eternal death." On the next day the prefect summoned her with her seven sons before him. "Take pity on your children," he said. Thereupon the Christian woman turned to her sons and said: "Lift up your eyes to Heaven, my children. Jesus Christ awaits you there with His Saints."
The mother and children were brave to the very end. Sentence of death was decreed against them. The eldest of the sons was beaten to death with leaded whips; the second and the third fell beneath the blows of the cudgel; the fourth was thrown into the Tiber. The last three and the mother were beheaded.
 That is, Marcus Aurelius. The name Antonius was given to all the rulers of the Antonine dynasty.
 Leclercq, Les Martyrs, I, 210-214.
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