Posted by: liturgicalyear | August 13, 2013

St. Philomena

Photo taken by Stefan Neikes A Painting of Saint Philomena in the shrine in Mugnano.I can’t let this week sneak by without mentioning the feast day of one of my favorite saints which took place this past Sunday, August 11 –the feast of Saint Philomena.  Although her feast is not observed in the Roman calendar, she is nonetheless an amazing miracle worker.  St. John Vianney attributed all of his miracles to her, declaring, “I have never asked for anything through the intercession of my Little Saint without having been answered.” (Mark Miravalle, It Is Time to Meet St. Philomena, Queenship Publishing).  It’s a bit of a complex story, and I will tell you just a small piece of it.  If you want the full scoop you can read more here or listen here.

In 1802, in the catacombs of St. Priscilla, a tomb of an unknown martyr was discovered containing the remains of a girl about 13 years old.  Three stones on her grave held the inscribed words: LUMENA – PAX TE – CUM FI.  Arranged properly they spell out “Pax te cum Filumena”, “Peace be with you Philomena,” Philomena translating to “daughter of light”.  Her remains were exhumed, cataloged and, because so little was known about her, stored away at the Vatican.  That is, until three years later.

In 1805, the pastor of a struggling parish in Mugnano, Italy, Father Francis de Lucia, after experiencing great joy in the presence of her relics, requested that he be allowed to bring the relics of St. Philomena to his church in order to revive his parish.

His request granted, he returned to Mugnano and immediately miracles began to happen:

  • A local woman who was to dress Philomena’s remains for display in the church had an incurable disease for 12 years, upon dressing the remains, the woman was immediately cured.
  • The same day a local attorney with sciatica experienced an immediate cure when the remains were transferred to the church.
  • St. Philomena’s remains arrived the day before a noble woman of the village was scheduled for surgery for amputation of a cancerous leg.  Upon arrival of Philomena’s remains in the church, she was immediately cured.
  • When the remains of the martyr were brought into the church, the bells pealed.  A paralytic man in town ran into church screaming, “I’m cured.  The moment I heard the bells peal, I was healed.”

In the 1830s miracles abounded, and the Church granted public liturgical veneration.  This was the first time in history that a person had been elevated to sainthood by the witness of the miracles alone.  Usually the first stage is to declare a person “blessed” based on the way they lived their lives.  The problem, however, was that nothing was known about her life.

During this time 3 different people from 3 different parts of Italy unbeknownst to each other privately received details of the historical background of St. Philomena.  The most well-known comes from a nun who was praying before a Statue of St. Philomena (read her words here.)

This is what was revealed:

  1. Philomena was the only daughter of Greek prince who was a convert to Christianity.
  2. Her parents brought Philomena to Rome because he was beckoned by the emperor, most likely Diocletian.
  3. The emperor, upon seeing Philomena, wanted to marry her, but she refused. Her parents begged, cajoled, and threatened, but she would not consent.  She had pledged her virginity to Jesus.
  4. Enraged, the emperor sent her to prison loaded with chains, but came to see her every day in the hopes of changing her mind when he released her chains. As time went on and she continued to rebuff the emperor, he made greater attacks on her purity, but unsuccessfully so.
  5. Philomena prayed and prayed.
  6. Our Lady appeared to her after 37 days to give her courage and said she would send the angel Gabriel to comfort her.
  7. The emperor had Philomena stripped and scourged just like her savior to whom she had pledged her virginity.  Angels comforted her.  Surprisingly, even with a great blood loss, she did not die.
  8. The emperor then had an anchor tied around her neck and threw her into Tiber.  An angel came and released the chain, and thus she came back up to the top, completely dry.  This event brought about the immediate conversion of onlookers.
  9. After that, she was dragged through streets of Rome.  Arrows were shot at her, but still she did not die.  In exasperation, the emperor threw her in the dungeon.
  10. The next torment the emperor chose was heated darts. The archers shot at her, but mid-way en route to Philomena, the arrows turned around and killed 6 of the archers. Several remaining renounced paganism.
  11. In desperation, the emperor had her neck pierced with lance, the final instrument of her death.

All of this happened because she wanted to protect her purity.  She had made a promise to Jesus, and she wanted to keep it.

What can we learn from Philomena?

Sometimes it’s really hard to be faithful to our promises – baptismal or otherwise.  Our recourse is prayer and confidence in God.  In a day where purity is assaulted everywhere we look, we should pray to St. Philomena for an increase in the virtue of purity in our own lives, in the lives of our children and those around us, and for our world.

Many of our children head back to school or college, in the days and weeks ahead.  Let us plead to St. Philomena to protect and defend them.  They face temptations at every turn and need supernatural strength to resist.  Saint Philomena’s intercession is our weapon to protect their purity.  She is a great example of someone striving to live a pure life, and she’s a powerful intercessor. Expect miracles!!

St. Philomena, patroness of the children of Mary, pray for us!  Anne

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