Posted in justice, Peace & Justice, Poems/Poetry, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart


I met Perpetua today.
Ready to die, to sacrifice all.
For the sake of a child.

Her child clinging.
Unaware of the rising trauma.
Taken away to a forsaken father.

“Renounce Christianity and you will be saved!
Your child returned to you.
Your home restored to wholeness.”

Perpetua does not flinch.
She steps forward.
Recanting the family.

Soldiers rise on their toes.
Readying for battle.
A jumping of the broomstick.

Divorcing the family that once enslaved.
She calmly faces each one.
Taking punishment for freedom.

© 2009, Terri Stewart

This was written to honor the courage and strength of a young woman who is being jumped-out of a gang.  She is doing it for her child and for God.  Perpetua was an early Christian martyr who, while imprisoned, kept her child with her for a time.  She was imprisoned for the sake of her belief in the Christ-child.  This young woman is being jumped-out for the sake of her child. We know of Perpetua because she was educated enough to keep a diary. There are fragments of this diary in existence today. She stayed with her child in prison until she was done nursing him. At that time, he was taken away from her and given to her family to raise.

Gangs and the fear they create are a scourge and it breaks my heart.  If we could lift people out of poverty and the resultant system failures (failure of healthcare, failure of education) these kids, who join gangs by the age of 7 or 8, might have a shot at turning life around.  In the long run, it is much cheaper to educate someone than it is to imprison them.  In the US, there are approximately 800,000 gang members. El Salvador has at least 50,000 while Mexico is at 100,000 at least. There are about 90,000 in Japan and over 160,000 in China. Italy has at least 25,000. (Source: Wikipedia).  This is a world-wide problem with real, heart-breaking consequences.

© 2013, post, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

terriTERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at,, and  To reach her for conversation, send a note to


I am a monk disguised as a passionate prophet. My true loves are God, family, and the creative arts. And maybe just a little bit of politics too. (PS My photo is by Eric Lyons Photography).

4 thoughts on “Perpetua

    1. You could search out Perpetua’s “autobiography.” It isn’t too long and is very interesting! There is scholarly debate whether she wrote it or not, but it definitely is a peak into a time that is hard to imagine.

      I’m glad it was meaningful to you.


  1. Cheaper to educate than to imprison…does that imply that education lifts kids out of poverty, out of systems, and out of the social pressure to join a gang? What kind of education does this? It would seem a magic talisman, but I doubt it’s that simple. Just sayin’.


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