St. Philomena: Virgin, Martyr and Wonder Worker
The very name of Philomena contains the words: filia luminis, daughter of light.
She is the enlightener of a dark and corrupt age confounding the sneers of materialism.
She is the Patroness of the Children of Mary.
Her mission today is to draw us to the Immaculate Heart of Mary through imitation of her heroic virtues of purity, obedience and humility.
Saint Philomena is an anchor of HOPE in this dark age of despair.
St. Philomena, Patroness and Protectress of the Living Rosary
Credited with countless miracles and intercessions since discovery of her tomb in the most ancient catacombs of St. Priscilla in Rome in 1802, St. Philomena is prayed to by people of diverse ages, culture and social standing around the world. The young virgin who was martyred at age 13, willingly traded her earthly life for heavenly salvation and continues her work today promoting the virtues of purity and sanctity among the world’s youth and bringing the faithful closer to our Blessed Mother and Jesus Christ. It would seem she was held in quiet reserve by God for nearly seventeen centuries and summoned at a time when so much uncertainty and absence of faith abound.
The Beatification of "Filumena," daughter of light
On August 10, 1835, Pauline received a miraculous cure of a severe heart ailment at Saint Philomena’s shrine in Mugnano del Cardinale, Italy, during the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Immediately following, she appealed to Pope Gregory XVI to begin an examination for the beatification of "Filumena," daughter of light. And on Jan. 13, 1837, Pope Gregory XVI named St. Philomena Patroness of the Living Rosary, and declared her to be the "Thaumaturga," the "Great Wonder-Worker of the nineteenth century." In a solemn decree, he raised her to the altar of the Church, granting her a special feast day (August 11) and a Mass in her honor.
It is said that Saint Philomena revealed Her story to three people who did not know one another and who resided in different parts of the world. These private revelations unveiled the story of Saint Philomena’s life in great detail and were amazingly identical accounts.
"Filomena" [Ital.] "Philomène" [Fr.] "Philomena" [Eng.]
One of the most well-known recipients of this revelation was the Foundress of the Oblates of Our Lady of Sorrows, Mother Maria Luisa di Gesù, a Dominican Tertiary.
On August 3, 1833, after having received the Eucharist, the nun Maria was praying before Saint Philomena’s statue and at that moment felt a strong desire to know the true date of the Saint’s martyrdom. August 10 was the day St. Philomena’s relics had arrived in Mugnano, Italy. This date was significant to the people of Mugnano, but not to those who lived elsewhere. As Maria contemplated this, she closed her eyes and suddenly a gracious and gentle voice came from the direction of the statue, saying:
"Dear Sister, August the tenth was the day of my rest, my triumph, my birth into Heaven, my entering into the possession of such eternal goods as the human mind cannot possibly imagine. That is why my Heavenly Spouse disposed, by His most high decrees that my coming to Mugnano should be on the day which had seen my coming to Heaven! He prepared so many circumstances which should make my arrival at Mugnano glorious and triumphant; giving joy to all the people, even though the priest who brought me had absolutely decided that my translation should take place on the fifth of the month very quietly in his own house. My omnipotent Spouse impeded him with so many obstacles that the priest, although he did all he could to carry out his plan, could not do so. And so it came about that the said translation was made on the tenth, the day of my feast in Heaven."
The statue of Saint Philomena in the Ars Shrine, France
Listen to the Story.
Mother Maria was overwhelmed by this and thought she had fallen as prey to this illusion. She took refuge in the Sacrament of Penance, confessing the whole event to her spiritual director. He was not so hasty in disposing of the matter. He proceeded to write to Don Francesco de Lucia in Mugnano and inquired about the truth of whether or not he originally intended to have the translation on August 5. Don Francesco’s reply confirmed that he indeed encountered many obstacles which detained him from carrying out his plan to arrive in Mugnano on the fifth.
At that, Mother Luisa’ director granted her obedience to ask St. Philomena other details of her life and martyrdom. Again, Mother Luisa went to the Saint, and begged her not to take any notice of her unworthiness, but to consider that it was a matter of holy obedience, and to reveal more about her life. After that time, there came a day when Maria was alone in her cell and felt her eyes being closed. She heard the gracious voice of St. Philomena. The following account of the life of Saint Philomena is taken from the official account of Fr. Di Lucia’s Relazione Istorici di Santa Filomena and subsequent annals from locutions received by Sr. Luisa di Gesu in August of 1833. These revelations received approval by the Holy Office, (presently the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) on December 21, 1833.
"My dear Sister, I am the daughter of a Prince who governed a small state in Greece. My mother is also of royal blood. My parents were without children. They were idolaters. They continually offered sacrifices and prayers to their false gods.”
A doctor from Rome named Publius lived in the palace in the service of my father. This doctor professed Christianity. Seeing the affliction of my parents, by the impulse of the Holy Ghost, he spoke to them of Christianity, and promised to pray for them if they consented to receive Baptism. The grace which accompanied his words enlightened their understanding and triumphed over their will. They became Christians and obtained the long desired happiness that Publius had assured them as the reward of their conversion. At the moment of my birth, they gave me the name of "Lumena," an allusion to the light of Faith of which I had been, as it were, the fruit. The day of my Baptism they called me "Filumena," or "Daughter of Light," because on that day I was born to the Faith. The affection which my parents bore me was so great that they had me always with them.
It was on this account that they took me to Rome on a journey that my father was obliged to make on the occasion of an unjust war with which he was threatened by the haughty Diocletian. I was then thirteen years old. On our arrival in the capital of the world, we proceeded to the palace of the Emperor and were admitted for an audience. As soon as Diocletian saw me, his eyes were fixed upon me. He appeared to be pre-possessed in this manner during the entire time that my father was stating with animated feelings everything that could serve for his defense.
As soon as Father had ceased to speak, the Emperor desired him to be disturbed no longer, to banish all fear, to think only of living in happiness. These are the Emperor’s words, ‘I shall place at your disposal all the force of the Empire. I ask only one thing that is the hand of your daughter.’ My father, dazzled with an honor he was far from expecting, willingly acceded on the spot to the proposal of the Emperor.
When we returned to our own dwelling, Father and Mother did all they could to induce me to yield to Diocletian’s wishes and theirs. I cried, ‘Do you wish, that for the love of a man, I should break the promise I have made to Jesus Christ? My virginity belongs to him. I can no longer dispose of it.’
‘But you were young then, too young,’ answered my father, ‘to have formed such an engagement.’ He joined the most terrible threats to the command that he gave me to accept the hand of Diocletian. The grace of my God rendered me invincible, and my father, not being able to make the Emperor relent, in order to disengage himself from the promise he had given, was obliged by Diocletian to bring me to the Imperial Chamber.
I had to withstand for some time beforehand a new attack from my father’s anger. My mother, uniting her efforts to his, endeavored to conquer my resolution. Caresses, threats, everything was employed touce me to compliance. At last, I saw both of my parents fall at my knees and say to me with tears in their eyes, ‘My child have pity on your father, your mother, your country, our country, our subjects.’
‘No! No,’ I answered them. ‘My virginity, which I have vowed to God, comes before everything, before you, before my country. My kingdom is heaven.’
My words plunged them into despair and they brought me before the Emperor, who on his part did all in his power to win me. But his promises, his allurements, his threats, were equally useless. He then flew into a violent fit of anger and, influenced by the Devil, had me cast into one of the prisons of the palace, where he had me loaded with chains. Thinking that pain and shame would weaken the courage with which my Divine Spouse inspired me, he came to see me every day. After several days, the Emperor issued an order for my chains to be loosed, that I might take a small portion of bread and water. He renewed his attacks, some of which would have been fatal to purity had it not been for the grace of God.
The defeats which he always experienced were for me the preludes to new tortures. Prayer supported me. I did not cease to recommend myself to Jesus and his most pure Mother. My captivity had lasted thirty-seven days, when, in the midst of a heavenly light, I saw Mary holding the Divine Son in her arms.
‘My daughter,’ she said to me, ‘three days more of prison and after forty days you shall leave this state of pain.’
Such happy news made my heart beat with joy, but as the Queen of Angels had added that I should quit my prison, to sustain, in frightful torments a combat far more terrible than those preceding, I fell instantly from joy to the most cruel anguish; I thought it would kill me.
‘Have courage, my child,’ Mary then said to me; ‘are you unaware of the love of predilection that I bear for you? The name, which you received in baptism, is the pledge of it for the resemblance which it has to that of my Son and to mine. You are called Lumena, as your Spouse is called Light, Star, Sun, as I myself am called Aurora, Star, the Moon in the fullness of its brightness, and Sun. Fear not, I will aid you. Now nature, whose weakness humbles you, asserts its law. In the moment of combat, grace will come to lend you its force, and your Angel, who was also mine, Gabriel, whose name expresses strength, will come to your aid. I will recommend you especially to his care, as the well beloved among my children.’
Honoring Saint Philomena we proclaim the power of God in the strength of His Martyrs, and His Infinite Goodness in the favors He concedes to the prayers of His Saints. This was the theology of the Holy CurÉ of Ars, and this will be ours also.
Father Luis Petit, founder of the Universal Archconfraternity of Saint Philomena, Paris, France, 1859
These words of the Queen of virgins gave me courage again, and the vision disappeared, leaving my prison filled with a celestial perfume. I experienced a joy out of this world. Something indefinable.
What the Queen of Angels had prepared me for was soon experienced. Diocletian, despairing of bending me, decided on public chastisement to offend my virtue. He condemned me to be stripped and scourged like the Spouse I preferred to him. These are his horrifying words.
‘Since she is not ashamed to prefer to an Emperor like me, a malefactor condemned to an infamous death by his own people, she deserves that my justice shall treat her as he was treated.’
The prison guards hesitated to unclothe me entirely but they did tie me to a column in the presence of the great men of the court. They lashed me with violence until I was bathed in blood. My whole body felt like one open wound, but I did not faint.
The tyrant had me dragged back to the dungeon, expecting me to die. I hoped to join my heavenly Spouse. Two angels, shining with light, appeared to me in the darkness. They poured a soothing balm on my wounds, bestowing on me a vigor I did not have before the torture.
When the Emperor was informed by the change that had come over me, he had me brought before him. He viewed me with a greedy desire and tried to persuade me that I owed my healing and regained vigor to Jupiter, another god that he, the Emperor, had sent to me. He attempted to impress me with his belief that Jupiter desired me to be Empress of Rome. Joining to these seductive words promises of great honor, including the most flattering words, Diocletian tried to caress me. Fiendishly, he attempted to complete the work of Hell which he had begun. The Divine Spirit to whom I am indebted for constancy in preserving my purity seemed to fill me with light and knowledge and to all the proofs which I gave of the solidity of our Faith, neither Diocletian nor his courtiers could find an answer.
Then, the frenzied Emperor dashed at me, commanding a guard to chain an anchor around my neck and bury me deep in the waters of the Tiber. The order was executed. I was cast into the water, but God sent me two angels who unfastened the anchor. It fell into the river mud, where it remains no doubt to the present time. The angels transported me gently in full view of the multitude upon the riverbank. I came back unharmed, not even wet, after being plunged with the heavy anchor.
When a cry of joy rose from the debauchers on the shore, and so many embraced Christianity by proclaiming their belief in my God, Diocletian attributed my preservation to secret magic. Then the Emperor had me dragged through the streets of Rome and shot with a shower of arrows. My blood flowed, but I did not faint. Diocletian thought that I was dying and commanded the guards to carry me back to the dungeon. Heaven honored me with a new favor there. I fell into a sweet sleep, and I found myself, on awaking, perfectly cured.
Diocletian learned about it. ‘Well, then,’ he cried in a fit of rage, ‘let her be pierced with sharp darts a second time, and let her die in that torture.’ They hastened to obey him. Again, the archers bent their bows. They gathered all their strength, but the arrows refused to second their intentions. The Emperor was present. In a rage, he called me a magician, and thinking that the action of fire could destroy the enchantment, ordered the darts to be made in a furnace and directed against my heart. He was obeyed, but these darts, after having passed through a part of the space which they were to cross to come to me, took a quite contrary direction and returned to strike those by whom they had been hurled. Six of the archers were killed by them. Several among them renounced paganism, and the people began to render public testimony to the power of God that protected me.
These murmurs and acclamations infuriated the tyrant. He determined to hasten my death by ordering my head to be cut off. My soul took flight towards my heavenly Spouse, who placed me, with the crown of virginity and the palm of martyrdom, in a distinguished place among the elect. The day that was so happy for me and saw me enter into glory was Friday, the third hour after mid-day, the same hour that saw my Divine Master expire."
What is noteworthy from a historical perspective is not only that this revelation was confirmed by two other individuals unknown to each other (one a priest, the other a historian), but these other historical facts: 1) The Third Century Roman Emperor was known for executing Christians by the use of arrows, exemplified by St. Sebastian; 2) The Third Century Roman Emperor was also known for killing Christians by tying anchors around their necks and throwing them into the water; 3) The reference to "Lumena" -- the name given to her at birth, "Light" -- and then at Baptism, "Fi Lumena," "Daughter of Light," may explain the arrangement of the tiles found at the grave as "Lumena," her first given name, was on the first tile.
In spite of much research, little is known of the life of St. Philomena before the discovery of her celebrated tomb in the Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome. Details about her are derived from the revelation that she herself made to the Servant of God, Sister Maria Luisa of Jesus, her fervent devotee, on August 3, 1833.
The following are historical facts beginning with the discovery of St. Philomena’s tomb in 1802.
Revolution, war, famine, atheism, and persecution had plagued Europe during the eighteenth century, and the Jansenist heresy had touched and withered the spiritual vigor of Catholics. Men cameo believe in their own abilities and the right of any man to think as they did.
In these fierce days of persecution, the primitive Christians were obliged to perform the sacred rites of their holy religion in the subterranean caverns (cryptœ) which extend on every side of the Eternal City, but clustered most thickly at the south-east corner, near the Appain Way and the Ardeatine Way. These caverns, long-believed to have been originally mere sand-pits, arenaria, out of which sand was dug for building purposes, are now proved beyond all doubt to have been constructed at great expense by noble and wealthy Christian families as places of burial. During three consecutive centuries, the Catacombs, as they are called, were places where the faithful had their temples and altars; where they met to pray in common and where the Pontiffs celebrated "The Gathering," or the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. They were in constant use also up to the cessation of persecution, and even to 410 A.D as the last resting-place of the Saints and martyrs. In the terrible irruptions of the Goths and Lombards, many of these cemeteries, especially of the Via Salaria, were sacrilegiously plundered of their sacred treasures, and in part destroyed.
When happier times ensued - at the commencement of the eighth century and culminating with Pope St. Paschal - all the relics of the Popes and principal martyrs and confessors which had hitherto lain in the Catacombs were removed for greater safety to the churches of Rome. As time passed, the Catacombs were abandoned and in great part closed, and the knowledge of them was lost altogether, until they were accidentally re-discovered by some laborer in the year 1578. Even then they seem to have been left unguarded, and permission was given to the faithful to take away whatever relics they chose.
By a special providence of God, the sacred tomb of St. Philomena was left unnoticed and undisturbed until it pleased Him in these later days to reveal Her glory to the entire world.
However, the story begins quite plainly, though and perhaps sadly. On May 24, 1802, workers had just returned to the excavations begun earlier in a tufa pit in an underground cemetery dedicated to the family of Priscilla (the ancient Catacomb of Saint Priscilla), underneath the soil on the road that goes out of the Porta Salaria from Rome to Ancona.
Laboring in the darkness, a fossor reached the center of the Catacomb not far from the Greek Chapel, and very close to the largest luminaries where he was clearing loose sand which had fallen from one of the galleries on the upper level from a loculus when his pick struck a cemented surface.
Upon closer examination the concrete surface appeared to be some tiles which would normally enclose a loculus and, as previously instructed by Msgr. Ponzetti, Custodian of the Holy Relics, he immediately ceased the excavation.
Painting of Saint Philomena commissioned by Saint John Vianney and is housed in the Shrine of Ars, France. Vianney reported that this is the exact likeness of Saint Philomena, who said that she appeared to him.
May 25, 1802 - The Tomb Is Revealed
Fr. Filippo Ludovici, Vatican overseer of the excavation was informed, and on the following day, May 25, 1802, Fr. Ludovici, accompanied by several observers, descended into the Catacomb, and witnessed the full uncovering of the loculus, whereby with the removal of sand, three brick funeral tiles (the tiles were given to the Sanctuary on August 14, 1827 by Pope Leo XII) were revealed which bore an epitaph painted in lead. Each tile measured approximately 50 centimeters long and had a total length of 1.74 centimeters (5 feet 9 inches).
The painted inscription on the three
funeral tiles appeared as follows: tile one - LUMENA; tile two - PAXTE; tile
three - CUM FI. The loculus was documented by Msgr. Ponzetti, Custodian of the
Holy Relics, as bearing "FILUMENA," an interpretation of the epitaph
consistent with both the ancient custom of beginning inscriptions from the
second tile and the logical etymological context. The result is a full reading
of the epitaph as "PAX TECUM FILUMENA."
This funereal inscription presents the distinctive characteristics of apostolic times, rarely found in other cemeteries more recent than the Priscilla.
The name of "Filumena" is officially granted to the sacred remains examined on May 25, 1802, as recorded in the document issued by Ponzetti as Custodian of the Sacred Relics which released the remains of this Christian martyr to the Diocese of Nola on June 8, 1805:
8 Iunii 1805
Dono dedi Ven. Ecclesiae Archipresbyterali terrae Mugnano Dioecesis Nolanae corpus Sanctae Christi Martyris
Nominis proprii sic picti in tribus Tabulis laterariis cinabro
LUMENA PAXTE CUM FI
in pulverem et in fragminaactum per me infrascriptum Custodem extractum cum vasculo vitreo fracto ex Coemeterio Priscillae Via Salaria Nova die 25 maii 1802, quod collocavi in capsula lignea charta colorata cooperta et consignavi Illmo Dominico Caesari pro Illmo et Rmo D. Bartholomaeo de Caesare Epo Potentino.
HYACINTHUS PONZETTI, Custos.
In addition to the inscription, so eloquent in its simplicity, the sepulchral tiles exhibited certain symbols, including tokens of martyrdom. There were an anchor and arrow pointing upwards, a palm, and under the palm another anchor, a javelin pointing upwards, another arrow pointing downwards, and a lily.
Students of Christian symbols generally agree on the interpretation of these figures on the tiles. The emblems breathe the language of faith and hope.
In the anchor there is a resemblance to the cross, the sign of faith in Christ. In both Greek and Roman antiquity there is mention of the sacred anchor. The anchor also connotes hope, refuge, and preservation of life. In the legend of the martyred Saint Philomena there is a passage about the Roman emperor’s wrath when an anchor he had fastened to the girl’s neck wedged in the mud of the Tiber River. Other Saints, including Pope Clement, suffered martyrdom by having an anchor tied to the neck and being dropped into the sea. Emperor Trajan as well as Tberius decreed this form of brutality.
The two arrows pointing in opposite directions signify torment similar to that which Tiberius exercised on St. Sebastian.
On the removal of the tiles in the cavity, were disclosed the remains of an interment, which competent authority pronounced to be those of a young girl from thirteen to fifteen years of age. The head was small and very much fractured, but the principal bones were entire. Surgeons ascertained the type of wounds inflicted. Physicians examined the skeleton - its small unbroken bones, fractured skull, and eye sockets. The maiden had been lanced.
At the end of the loculus was a small glass vial or vase with half-broken sides of which were encrusted within with a dust of blackish color indicating blood clinging to glass fragments, and with the lower portion of the vial still intact and firmly embedded in the cement . It was undoubtedly blood which had been collected at the death of the martyr, according to the custom of Christians during the persecutions, and placed with the remains as a testimonial to her death by martyrdom. As early as 1668, the Congregation of Indulgences and Relics had decided that the genuineness of a true relic of a martyr hinged somewhat on the finding of the vial or vase filled with the martyr’s blood. The same congregation renewed the decision in 1863.
This blood was loosened from the broken pieces of the vial to which it adhered, and was carefully placed in a crystal urn. Those present, among whom were men of great learning of the Court of Inquiry, were startled by a strange chemical reaction. As soon as these little particles of blood fell into the sun, they glittered like burnished gold or silver, or shone like diamonds and precious jewels, or, again, were resplendent in all colors of the rainbow. The chemical change of the blood convinced the Church dignitaries that a new star had arisen among the Blessed. Cardinal Ruffo Scilla renewed the seals on the new reliquary after the blood of the Saint had been safeguarded in the crystal vial, and deposed in the authentication: "And we have seen her blood change into several brilliant little precious stones of various colors; also into gold and silver."
This extraordinary phenomenon continues to the present day. The precious remains were reverently placed in a wooden case, lined with silk and stuffed with fine cotton and transferred to the Custodia Generale, or treasury of Sacred Relics, where they remained there for three years.
The remains of Filumena departed from Rome on July 1, 1805 and arrived at Mugnano on August 10, 1805 where they have remained since the transferal.
In 1805, England was at war with France. At this time, France was intrigued with Ireland Scotland had attempted to invade England with its aim on the Indian Empire. Napoleon, who had been the Commander-in-Chief of the French Army which invaded and conquered Italy, was now Emperor of the French.
That summer, the Bishop-elect of Petenza went to Rome to be consecrated, and also to congratulate Pope Pius VII on his return from France, on behalf of the King of Naples, the Spanish Don Carlos. He took with him as his chaplain, a holy missionary priest, Don Francesco de Lucia , who was serving the parish of Mugnano north of Naples. Don Francesco, a cultured and pious priest, was born in Mugnano del Cardinale on September 19, 1772. He completed his studies in the Congregation of the Most Blessed Sacrament of Lucera. Ordained a priest on September 19, 1796, he opened a school of philosophy and literature in Naples. He quickly gained the esteem and affection of distinguished Neapolitan people in education circles. Amongst these was the Venerable Jesuit Servant of God, Guiseppe Maria Pignatell
Don Francesco had a heavy heart. His parish was infested with impurities of revolutionary ideas, resentment against the authority of the Church, unbelief, and immorality. His secret hope was to get the Bishop to use his authority to get him the relics of a martyr - a Saint who would come back with him and help him convert his parish. He knew exactly what he wanted - a virgin martyr whose name was known.
The Guardian of the Custodia Generale, which Don Francesco soon got permission to visit, was evidently taken by this devout and humble priest, and said he would help him acquire what he desired, and told him to choose among the relics in the Custodia. In mid-May, Don Francesco was taken to the Treasure House of Relics, which was under the care of a worthy guardian, Monsignor Don Giacinto Ponzetti. There were those of thirteen martyrs, but only the names of three were known - one was a child, one an adult and then there was ‘Filumena.’ He had wanted a virgin martyr from the start, but what was more, when he stood before the case containing Filumena’s relics, he felt alive with spiritual joy, and it was as though She instantly took away the heaviness of his heart. This was undoubtedly the helper he wanted! The Guardian promised to arrange for this. Imagine his disappointment, then, when the official reply came that bodies of martyrs whose names were known were so few, that such as were found must be kept for special churches or dioceses.
His sadness doubled. Rome is not the best place in which to spend the summer - or at least it was not in those days, when the marshes of the Campagna had not been drained. As a result of the intense heat, and his considerable worry and disappointment, Don Francesco’s health began to decline. A friend offered him the relics of an unnamed martyr to comfort him, but he would not accept it. He was convinced that only Filumena could help him convert his parish. One night when he was burning with fever, he promised that if Filumena would grant him sleep, he would do everything possible to take her as his patron to Mugnano. Miraculously, his fever was gone and he fell asleep awakening in perfect health.
This confirmed to him that Filumena wanted to come with him to Mugnano just as much as he did. This time he went to the newly consecrated Bishop, and asked him to use his influence. When the Bishop heard the story, he agreed that the Saint appeared to want to go to Mugnano, and added his request to Don Francesco’s. The Guardian gladly acted on this permission to entrust the relics to Don Francesco and felt certain that Filumena would perform miracles in Mugnano.
Delighted, the good Bishop and Don Francesco took possession of the precious casket, and proceeded to bring Filumena to Naples. With many prayers and every honor, the casket was placed in the front of the Episcopal carriage.
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The cortege was due in the little town on Sunday, August 10, and on the vigil, bells were joyfully rung to announce the event. At dawn, a messenger was sent by Don Francesco to proclaim that the sacred body was coming. Soon an unusual excitement reigned, and crowds were seen proceeding from all directions to meet and welcome Her. The day was to be noted as a memorable one in the archives of Mugnano. More than forty priests in their richest vestments, the members of the various confraternities and representatives from the neighboring parishes went in procession displaying their banners. The road was strewn with olive branches and exquisite flowers. When the body came into sight, all the bells were heard "sprinkling air with holy sounds," and heavenly music, sounds of bomb and gun fire, and groups of young men and young girls united in song welcomed Her in the most honorable way.
After entering the town the cortege took fully two hours to reach the church of the Madonna del grazie. Upon arrival of the sacred body, it was deposited under a triumphal dias near the Gospel side of the high altar, and Solemn High Mass was sung.
Don Francesco de Lucia , to give a solid and profound base to the devotion to the Saint, founded the Association of the Children of St. Philomena. He was the first rector of the sanctuary and most vigilant guardian of the holy remains of the Saint. He dedicated his priestly life for the glory of God and for souls. After 41 years of untiring apostolate in the propagation of devotion to Saint Filumena in all the Kingdom of the Two Sicilys, acquiring the regard of cardinals and bishops, he rendered his great soul to God on April 9, 1847.
For thirty years miracles continued to increase in number at Mugnano, and the glory of the "Thaumaturga" (Wonder-worker) filled the Universe. Various appeals were addressed to the Holy See so that a feast day might be established, and an Office and Mass permitted in her honor.
In 1835, Pauline Jaricot, Foundress of the great French lay social institution in aid of the missions, Propagation of the Faith, and also foundress of the Association of the Living Rosary, and of other good works, was close to death. She suffered from a heart disease which had affected her health for some years and had left her suffering from frequent heart attacks. She had been unable to walk for the previous year and a quarter. The slow deterioration was leading to death. Doctors had given up on her case and deemed it hopeless.
Drawn by an irresistible attraction, she wanted to visit Rome and the Holy Father. When she arrived at Rome after a terrible journey, her state was such that she could not go to the Vatican, and it was the Holy Father who went to visit her in the convent of Trinita dei Monti. The young lady asked Pope Gregory XVI if he would approve the cult of Saint Filumena, if she was cured by the Saint.
"Surely, my child," replied the august Pontiff, "for that would indeed be a first class miracle." This miracle indeed took place at the Sanctuary of Saint Filumena. On her return to Rome, the Sovereign Pontiff wanted Miss Jaricot to stay a full year there until all doubts about the completeness of the cure were quashed. Then, in a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, confirmed by the Pope on January 30, 1837, the feast of Saint Philomena was established as the eleventh of August.
Toward the evening of Saturday, August 9, 1835, vigil of the feast of the Translation of Saint Filumena, during the Solemn Vespers, a French lady was seen to arrive accompanied by her chaplain, a maid and a servant. These last two, with much trouble, lowered their mistress from the coach onto a chair, and carried her through the crowd to the foot of the altar of the Reliquary where she remained in prayer until the end of the function.
After 15 months of suffering, the lady was pallid, wasted and weak. Being in the final stages of heart disease, she resembled more a corpse than a live person.
The next day, on August 10, she was taken to the Sanctuary a number of times to participate in various Masses and to receive Holy Communion. She attended the Evening Office as she had on Monday. Her sad state was observed by a number of doctors from Naples who had come for the feast day celebrations.
Up until that evening, she gave no sign of improvement though she later revealed that she had felt herself healed soon after Communion, but was afraid to announce it because of the commotion the people would make. However, after the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, when the people had left, she rose and walked back to her lodging without help. She had truly been cured. When they quickly found out, the enthusiasm of the public was indescribable. At the second hour of the night, 9:30 p.m., the church bells pealed, and the shouts of joy of the crowds replied. Miss Jaricot had to show herself to satisfy the wishes of the people.
Out of gratitude she took the haven of the daughters of Saint Filumena: The Little Sisters of St. Philomena, and added to her name those of Philomena-Maria. The same gratitude brought her back to Mungano in 1839 for a four-day visit. After cruel trials, borne with the resignation and serenity of the Saints, she entered into the sleep of the just on January 9, 1862. Her body rests in the Church of Saint Polycarp awaiting the honor of being raised to the altars. The process of her beatification has been under way for a number of years.
On January 30, 1837, Pope Gregory XVI issued a solemn pontifical decree confirming the rescript of the Congregation of Rites authorizing Saint Philomena’s public cultus and approving the office, Mass of the Common of a virgin and martyr with a proper fourth lesson at Matins in honor of St. Philomena, virgin and martyr on August 11. This papal approval of public liturgical devotion was first granted to the clergy of the Diocese of Nola, and later extended to other dioceses, including Rome itself. The fourth lesson officially inserted into the Breviary in liturgical honor of Saint Philomena on August 11 acknowledges the finding of her remains in the Priscilla catacombs, her martyrdom status, the rapid spread of her extensive popular devotion amidst the faithful due to her miraculous intercession, and the permission of the Pope to celebrate liturgically the office and mass in her honor (as here presented):
DIE XI AUGUSTI
IN FESTO S. PHILUMENAE
Virginis et Martyris
In II NOCTURNO - LECTIO IV
Inter cetera martyrumi sepulcra, quae in coemeterio Priscillae ad viam Salariam reperiri solent, illud exstitit quo repositum fuerat sanctae Philumenae corpus, uti ex tumuli inscriptione, tribus laterculis apposita, perlegebatur. Licet vero inventa fuerit phiala sanguinis, et alia descripta conspicerentur martyrii insignia, dolendum tamen esit res ab eadem gestas actaque ac genus martyrii quod ipsa fecit obscura perstitisse. Ceterum ubi primum sacrum hoc corpus, ex beneficentia Piii septimi initio pontificatus ejus acceptum, cultui fidelis populi propositum fuit Mugnani in Nolana dioecesi, ingens illico famae celebritas ac religio erga sanctam martyrem percrebuit, praesertim ob signa quae ejusdem praesidio accessisse undique ferebatur. Hinc factum est ut complurium antistitum cultorumque martyris postulationibus permotus Gregorius decimus sextus pontifex maximusi, universa rei ratione mature perpensa, festum ejusdem cum Officio et Missa in memorata Nolana dioecesi et alibi agendum benigne permiserit.
C.M Episcop. Praenest. Card. PEDICINIUS;
S. R. E. Vice- C. S.R.C. Praef.;
V. PESCETELLI S. Fidei Promotor.
In summary, Pope Gregory XVI in a papal decree, granted official approbation of the liturgical cultus and, thereby, official ecclesiastical recognition of the sanctity of St. Philomena, virgin and martyr. The Pontiff, fully aware of the absence of any historical account of the martyr Saint "Filumena," granted to her the privileges of public liturgical veneration based upon the foundation of the great quantity of miracles ecclesiastically documented and recognized as having occurred through her direct intercession.
The official positive decree of Pope Gregory XVI in papal recognition of Saint Philomena’s status as deserving of liturgical cult reinforces the deeper truth that far more important than the historical account of Philomena’s earthly life is the historical and documented account of her powerful intercession for the Church as sanctioned by God himself. Whoever this early Christian martyr is and whatever constitutes the particular circumstances of her life and death, God is pleased with prayers of petition offered in the name of "St. Philomena," to which He has responded generously to the Christian faithful in granting an abundance of heavenly favors.
The historical abundance of miracles attests to God’s desire to encourage devotion to the person behind the name of Filumena, regardless of the absence of a recorded history of her earthly life. This primacy of importance of her actual intercession for the people of God in our own times, over the details of her earthly life in ancient times, is what the Pope and the Church confirmed in the raising of St. Philomena to the level of public liturgical veneration, the beginning of the process of her public recognition as Saint and martyr.
From the liturgical approval of Pope Gregory XVI to the papal decrees of St. Pius X, Nineteen acts of the Holy See in the course of five successive pontificates were issued in positive promotion of popular devotion to Saint Philomena expressed in the form of elevations in rank of liturgical cultus, the erection of confraternities and archconfraternities, and the granting of plenary and partial indulgences.
Several acts of the Holy See particularly display the Magisterium’s approval and encouragement of ecclesial devotion to this Christian Saint and martyr. Beyond the elevation of the rank of the mass and office previously granted by Pope Gregory XVI, Bl. Pius IX approved a proper mass and office dedicated to St. Philomena with the papal confirmation of the previously submitted decree, Etsi decimo on January 31, 1855, a significant liturgical elevation, even though her name was never entered into the Roman Martyrology. The granting of a proper mass and office to Saint Philomena, which took place following the return of Bl. Pius IX from a papal pilgrimage to Mugnano during his forced exile from Rome, was an unprecedented act in honor of a Christian martyr known only by name and evidence of martyrdom. Bl. Pius IX also granted plenary and partial indulgences to devotions in honor of St. Philomena at the Sanctuary in Mugnano.
Pope Leo XIII granted papal approbation to the Cord of Saint Philomena with several plenary indulgences in association with its wearing, and accorded the title and privilege of "archconfraternity" for the respective Philomenian devotion and work in France. Pope St. Pius X continued the papal succession of encouragement for public Church devotion by approving the extension of the Archconfraternity of St. Philomena to the universal Church.
Far more than one solitary papal act by Pope Gregory XVI, the papal Magisterium has repeatedly encouraged the nature and growth of ecclesial devotion to Saint Philomena, in official recognition of her status as a Saint, in public liturgical and devotional sanctions which extended to the universal faith and life of the Church, and thereby manifesting official and essential liturgical and devotional characteristics of her status as a Saint as defined by the Church.
St. John Vianney, beyond any other Saint or Blessed, manifested an expansive testimony of faith and documented witness toward the reality of St. Philomena and her profound intercessory efficacy. The CurÉ, as recorded in the canonization process, attributed all the miracles documented at Ars to have been affected through Saint Philomena’s intercession; repeatedly spoke of having received apparitions of St. Philomena; and directly attributed his own personal miraculous cure from grave illness to her intercession.
The testimony and cure of Ven. Pauline Jaricot through the intercession of the young martyr Saint has been noted. St. Peter Julian Eymard was cured from serious illness after having been instructed by St. John Vianney to pray a novena to Saint Philomena. St. Peter Channel, the first Oceanian martyr, preached of St. Philomena and referred to her as his "auxiliary" in his missionary apostolate.
Saint Joseph Damien de Veuster of Molokai dedicated his first chapel in Molokai to the young Saint. St. Madeleine Sophie Barat consistently invoked Saint Philomena during difficulties in the establishment of her societies, and attributed the miraculous cure of a dying novice to her intercession.
Bl. Anna Maria Taigi, as related in her beatification proceedings, applied oil burned before the tomb of St. Philomena to the eye of her grandchild who had been medically diagnosed with an incurable pupil tear of the eye, and the eye was immediately healed. Other Saints and Blesseds who manifested veneration to Saint Philomena include St. Magdalene of Canossa, Bl. Bartolo Longo, Bl. Annibale Da Messina, and Bl. Pius IX, who, shortly before his death, sent to Mugnano the chalice presented to him by the Belgian Federation of Catholic Circles on his golden Episcopal anniversary as one of several papal votive gifts sent in honor of and gratitude to St. Philomena.
The wisdom inherent in sanctity as personified in the lives of the aforementioned Saints and Blesseds provides a substantial confirmation of the decrees of the ordinary Magisterium which granted public ecclesiastical devotion to the martyr Saint. Worthy of particular mention is the significant number of Saints and Blesseds who immediately participated in veneration of Saint Philomena within the same half century of the discovery of her sacred remains, some before any certain statement concerning her public veneration was issued by Rome.
Note also the predominant importance of the supernatural intervention of miracles in the Church process of canonization. Without the documented miracles, an individual cause does not typically advance past the status of "Servant of God," even with extensive historical evidence of an earthly life of heroic virtue. The Church places its greatest emphasis for canonization, along with an essential historical basis, upon God’s witness to the sanctity of the candidate through the manifestation of miraculous intercession by the person. It was therefore most appropriate for Pope Gregory XVI to give far greater importance to the miracles documented to the intercession of St. Philomena, rather than to the history of her earthly existence beyond the Church approved criteria of historically establishing her martyrdom. The present inquiry into the case of Saint Philomena should follow the same criteria as those followed by Popes Gregory XVI, Bl. Pius IX, Leo XIII and St. Pius X.
This solemn approbation of the Church was not bestowed upon the devotion to St. Philomena until after many and frequent supplications to that effort had been sent to Rome from both faithful and bishops; in fact, from almost the entire episcopate of Italy. The Pope treated this affair with the maturity and prudent circumspection which presides over all the decisions of Rome; because it was an important matter, requiring being carefully and deliberately weighed, on account of its novelty in the Church, and the marvelous circumstances accompany it.
Accordingly he desired that this matter, namely, the promulgation of a decree authorizing the publics worship of Saint Philomena, should be debated by the Congregation of Rites, and moreover, after that august assembly had given an answer in the affirmative on September 6, 1834, he kept silence for over two years more, and only gave a definite judgment on the subject when he had prayed much, had seen with his own eyes the extraordinary cure worked by the Saint o Pauline Marie Jaricot and had heard authentic reports of the many prodigies of the Saint.
The Decree authorizing the devotion and granting leave to the clergy of the diocese of Nola to say in honor of St. Philomena the Office and Mass of the Common of a Virgin Martyr with the prayer Deus qui inter caetera, and a proper fourth lection, was published to the world on the thirtieth of January, 1837. This lection, which had been revised and corrected by Cardinal Pedicini, Prefect of the Congregation of Rites, and P. Pascetelli, Promoter of the faith, was officially introduced into the Roman Breviary in the Supplement, Pro aliquibus locis. It forms the whole of the first and a portion of the second of the three lections afterwards granted in honor of the Saint.
Shortly after this, many other bishops obtained for their own dioceses the same favor that had been granted to that of Nola, and, moreover, the feast of Saint Philomena was inserted in the calendar of the Roman clergy, and her office place din the Proper Pro clero uris, for August 19th.
In March, 1839, the same Pontiff, Gregory XVI, by a decree of the Congregation of Rites, gave leave to the clergy of Mugnano to keep her feast as a greater double; and in like manner on January 1, 1841, he raised it to a double of the second class.
A later set of the Holy See has consecrated in a still more solemn manner the public worship of St. Philomena; namely, the Decree Elsi decimosexto issued by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and approved by the Sovereign Pontiff Pius IX., on the 11th of January 1854; granting leave to the clergy of Mugnano to celebrate the feast of the Saint with a proper Office and Mass, which was also approved by the Sovereign Pontiff.
It should be noted that this is the only instance of a proper Office being granted in honor of a Saint from the Catacombs, of whom nothing was known except her name and the fact of her martyrdom. The three Lections granted for the Office will be found at the end of this Chapter.
With regard to the private acts of the Sovereign Pontiff; Leo XII., after reading the account of her written by Don Francesco di Lucia, was filled with admiration for his holy martyr: he blessed God for the power He had bestowed upon her, and authorized the creation of chapels in her honor. He gave his blessing to the holy women who devote themselves to good works under the invocation of this Saint and are known as the Monacelle, or Little Sisters of Saint Philomena. Seeing the strict rule under which they lived, their uniformity of habit, &c., he imagined that they must live in the seclusion of monasteries; but when he heard how great was their number, and that they led this holy life in the bosom of their own families, and spread abroad their salutary example wherever they went, in church, in the streets, or in the fields, he was delighted, and said these words spontaneously: - This miracle is greater then any other miracle worked by the Saint. What! In an age of universal corruption, in a kingdom so lately subjected to so many vicissitudes of religion, these pure souls have arisen to thread publicly underfoot the world and the flesh! I now bless them all!" And raising his right hand making the sign of the cross, he repeated, "May they all be blessed!" The order of the Little Sisters of St. Philomena was founded by Don Francesco in honor of Saint Philomena – and for the consolation of the many should who longed to dedicate their lives to the service of God by imitating the purity of their beloved Saint.
Gregory XVI never called St. Philomena anything by, "The great Saint," or, "The Thaumaturga of the nineteenth century." He blessed a picture of her to be exposed to public veneration at the Caravita in Rome, where she had a chapel. He also named her patron of the Living Rosary. When Mgr. afterwards Cardinal, Feretti paid his second visit to Mugnano, he was the bearer of a large silver and gold lamp presented to the Saint by Pope Gregory XVI.
Pope Pious IX., who credits Saint Philomena of his miraculous cure while Archbishop of Imola, himself introduced the devotion to the Saint into his Cathedral city; he assisted at the triduo held on the occasion, celebrated Mass and preached on the last day of it.
During his exile from Rome after he was Pope, he made a pilgrimage in person to the shrine of St. Philomena. The Holy Father arrived at the railway station of Nola at nine in the morning of the seventh of November, 1849, accompanied by his usual suite, and also by Cardinal Antonelli, and the Apostolic Nuncio at the Court of Naples, Mgr Garibaldi, Archbishop of Myra in partibus. He was received with all due formality by the authorities and he walked to his carriage between two files of young men belonging to the Congregation of St. Aloysius, who with olive branches and lighted candles in their hands, changed Hosanna to the Representative of the Son of David. All the streets of the town were thus lined by two rows of the laity distributed in the various confraternities of the town and the vicinity, who had hastened to do honor to the Holy Father and to receive his blessing.
Although he had given no certain notice of his intention and nothing was known about his visit save an uncertain rumor that had reached them two days before all the villages through which he passed during the six miles drive to Mugnano vied with one another to welcome him and show him honor. Triumphant arches were erected with appropriate inscriptions, bands of music were stationed beneath them, flowers and myrtles were strewn along his road, the clergy in their sacred vestments, with the confraternities and their banners, came forth to meet him, the young men with green boughs in their hands shouted Evviva! And all decked their houses as best they could; the rich by adorning them with splendid hangings, the poor by showing what they deemed their best pieces of furniture.
Thus amid the tears of joy of the devout populace, the Holy Father arrived at the foot of the steps leading to the church of Saint Philomena at Mugnano. Here he was received by the Bishop of Nola, who had come thither to meet him, and by the King of Naples, who knelt on the bare ground to assist him to alight, and who, when the Holy Father offered him his hand, begged for and obtained leave to kiss his gout. The Queen with her seven children, the princes and princesses of the Royal family, were kneeling on the steps leading up to the Church, to implore the benediction of the Holy Father.
The Sovereign Pontiff entered the church to the tones of the Ecce Sacedos Magnus, sung by the orphans educated by the Sisters of Charity in their convent adjoining the sanctuary. The Holy Father then celebrated the Holy Sacrifice at the altar where the relics of the Virgin Martyr are preserved, and afterwards heard another Mass said by his chaplain, according to his custom. He then received into his hands from the Bishop of Nola the reliquary containing the blood of St. Philomena, singed his own august forehead with it, and held it for the King and Queen and the princes who were present to kiss.
A throne had been prepared for him in the schoolroom of the Sisters, and the Holy Father repaired thither preceded by the clergy and accompanied by the Royal Family and his suite. Here he deigned to admit to the kissing of his feet the Rector of the sanctuary, the clergy of the parish the Fathers of the Congregation of St. Peter from Cesarano, the Sisters of Charity, the municipal authorities, and the gentlemen of the neighborhood. He then partook of some refreshment, and after imparting his blessing from a balcony to the immense crowds who filled the square, the front of church, the neighboring windows, and even the roofs of the houses, he returned to Naples.
In memory of the event he granted permission to the Rector of the Sanctuary to wear the dress of prelates, and to officiate in Pontifical. He also granted many indulgences to those who visit the shrine of Saint Philomena, and various other privileges.
This Papal pilgrimage contributed not a lintel to augment and propagate the devotion to St. Philomena.
During his sojourn at Naples, Pope Pius IX. Appointed Saint Philomena one of the secondary patrons of the kingdom; and in 182, he named her patron of the Enfants de Marie, and confirmed her title of protector of the Living Rosary.
Leo XIII., also, whilst Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Benevento, made two pilgrimages to Mugnano; and after he became Pope, he sent a valuable cross from the Vatican Supposition to the Rector of the church where the Saint lies. He also enriched the various Confraternities of St. Philomena with numerous Indulgences.
A solemn feast is kept in Rome in honor of Saint Philomena on the second Sunday in August, in the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, and at the Filippine on the 19th of the same month. She is venerated also in various other churches in Rome.
The following are translations of the proper Lections granted for the Office of St. Philomena:
I - Among the different sepulchers of Martyrs which were accustomed to be discovered in the cemetery of Pricilla, on the Via Salaria, there appeared that one wherein the body of Saint Philomena had been laid; as was stated in the inscription of the tomb, place upon three tiles. Yet, although a phial of blood was found there, and other tokens of martyrdom were to be seen inscribed thereupon it is nevertheless to be regretted that her life, her acts and, the kind of martyrdom which she suffered have remained in obscurity.
II - As soon as the sacred body, which was obtained from the munificence of Pius VII., at the commencement of his Pontificate, was exposed to the veneration of the faithful at Mugnano, in the diocese of Nola, an immense celerity of renown and devotion towards this holy Martyr was spread abroad in those parts; especially on the account of the miracles which were said on all sides to have been worked through her patronage. Hence, not only holy prelates and distinguished ecclesia.
The figure of Philomena, young roman martyr, emerged after nearly seventeen centuries of silence. Since the finding of her body the extraordinary presence of St. Philomena in the Church began. Since then every Pope has venerated her with his personal devotion and millions of Catholics have felt her beneficial influence. She has been a model of spiritual life for many Saints, Blessed and Venerable. Great devotion toward St. Philomena has spread all over the world and Pontiffs have granted the Saint the “Liturgical Devotion” with Mass and its own Office.
St. Philomena’s mortal remains were discovered in 1802 in Rome in a catacomb belonging to Priscilla. There are no biographic records of St. Philomena. Therefore, the first records about the Saint are the ones that start with the finding of her tomb in Priscilla’s catacombs, to the translation of her body to Mugnano del Cardinale, the beginning of her providential influence in Church life.
On the three stones that sealed the tomb, were the inscriptions
“ LUMENA – PAX TE – CUM FI”
ane the following symbols:
- two anchors
- three arrows
- a palm
- a lily
In 1805, Don Francesco De Lucia, a young priest of Mugnano del Cardinale of the Diocese of Nola, was in Rome. He nourished the wish of having the body of a “Saint Martyr and with a Name” to take to his oratory in Mugnano. Pius VII was moved and donated the body of St. Philomena. On the first of July Bishop Bartolomeo De Cesare and Don Francesco left Rome with the Saint’s relics. They reached Naples on July 2, 1805. Mons. Vincenzo Torrusio, Bishop of Nola, officially recognized the sacred relics, and then placed them in a private chapel.
Once the news spread, there was a massive rush of the faithful. To avoid disorder, the remains of St. Philomena were displayed for the first time to public veneration in the parish church of Sant’Angelo a Segno, where they remained for three days.
The sacred relics arrived in Mugnano the morning of August 10th and were placed in the Church of Our Lady of Grace. Since the wonders happening were many and the number of devotees kept increasing, a new Church of Our Lady of Grace was built in Mugnano. It contains a chapel where the sacred relics were translated on September 29, 1805, and where they still remain.
In Mugnano, the three stones that sealed St. Philomena’s niche in Priscilla’s catacombs, were solemnly displayed for public veneration of the faithful on August 4, 1827. Apart from the writing, what is striking is the richness of the symbols: two anchors, three arrows, a palm symbol of martyrdom, a flower. Externally, on the tomb of St. Philomena, there is the palm symbol of martyrdom and inside the glass vase with the blood, which has been subjected to the most rigorous exams.
St. Philomena has ascended to the glory of the Altars not for what we concretely know about her brief earthly existence but for the countless graces and miracles that God has lavished through her powerful intercession. That which is missing in the veneration of St. Philomena regarding historic records, is abundantly compensated by the richness and multiplicity of all the miracles performed thanks to her intercession from the day of the translation of her bones from Rome to Mugnano, up until now. Rightly, Pope Gregory XVI defined her “Thaumaturge of XIX century”.
In the nineteenth century the figure of Philomena, young roman martyr, conquered hearts. The devotion expanded rapidly. Many devotees trusted her protection and, of these, we remember Pauline Jaricot, founder of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, and the Living Rosary; the young John Maria Mastai Ferretti, who will become Pope with the name of Pius IX and will be beatified; the shy priest John Marie Vianney, the Cure of Ars, singled out by St Pius X as the guarantor of St. Philomena. They were all seriously ill and were perfectly cured from their illnesses as a result in their faith in St. Philomena.
The latin term dies natalis (day of birth) indicates the day in which the a saint moves from the earthly life to the eternal one. An earthly life spent observing the precepts of the divine commandments leads to eternal life. For a martyr, we can affirm what St. Ambrose wrote to the young martyr St. Agnes: “Martirem dixi, satis dixi”, which means: “having said martyr, I’ve said everything”.
Mons. Anselmo Basilici, Bishop of Sutri and Nepi, was a tireless promoter of the devotion of St. Philomena. Mons. Giovani Braschi had received a few relics from Mugnano and wanted to divide them between the Churches of his Diocese. He wanted to please all the applicants, but he did not know how. At this point the relics prodigiously multiplied themselves. He also declared that he received requests about relics from Cardinals and Bishops to promote the devotion and that he managed to meet the demands of everybody. Then on June 17, 1835 a division of the dust belonging to the sacred Body of St. Philomena was solemnly carried out in front of many witnesses that confirmed the prodigy.
What amazes both the ordinary faithful and the diligent researcher about the Philomena phenomenon is realizing how fast the devotion of St. Philomena is spreading all over the world. For about seventeen centuries her bones had remained in the oblivion of Priscilla’s Catacombs in Rome. In a few years the devotion towards this young girl has spread in the whole world matching, and even exceeding, the devotion towards other martyrs venerated in the past.
Before the decree of the Congregation of Rites of 1961, St. Philomena was venerated and her figure was present in all the hagiography books. After 1961, not only was she removed from the liturgical calendar, but in the majority of hagiography books she was treated as a symbol for all legends. Therefore, just like the other “obscured” Saints, there were those who continued to venerate St. Philomena more than ever, while others, confused, fell by the wayside. If so many High Pontiffs have approved her devotion, St. Philomena is a reality, and cannot be relegated into legend.
he importance of the devotion of St. Philomena can be evinced not only from the official Church documents, but also from the personal devotions that Popes that have had towards our Martyr.
Nearly all the Popes, from 1802 to 1940, have shown a great veneration for St. Philomena. Some of them have visited the Sanctuary of the Saint when they were Cardinals of The Holy Roman Church. Pius IX, apart from having been miraculously cured by the Saint and spreading her devotion in the diocese of Imola of which he was Pastor, as a Pope he visited the Sanctuary in Mugnano to venerate the sacred body of Philomena the martyr. The devotion of the Popes toward our martyr was great, as shown by their recognitions, privileges and ex voto.
Pius VII (1800-1823). He accomplished the greatest act, donating to Mugnano the body of St. Philomena.
Leo XII (1823-1829). On the 7th of December 1827, he exclaimed: “She is a great Saint!”
Gregory XVI (1831-1846). The Pope himself donated to the Sanctuary of St. Philomena a precious medallion with his effigy, a big silver lamp with golden decorations and a golden chalice.
Pius IX (1846-1878). He was cured
from his epilepsy by the intercession of our Saint. When he was Bishop of Imola even his secretary, Don Joseph Stella, was cured in
1834 by intercession of St. Philomena.
Leo XIII (1878-1903). He came in pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Mugnano when he was still Archbishop of Benevento. On December 15, 1883, Leo XIII approved the use of a red and white cord in honor of the Saint. Furthermore, on September 24, 1889 he granted the title of Archconfraternity (solely to France) to the Work of St. Philomena, and in 1902 he wanted to celebrate in Rome, in Priscilla’s Catacombs, the first centenary for the finding of the Saint martyr’s body. Furthermore, he sent two gifts to the Sanctuary in Mugnano: in 1888 a nice pastoral and on May 25, 1902, on the centenary of the finding of the relics, a wonderful missal.
St Pius X (1903-1914). He is the Pope that in 1905 proclaimed the Curate of Ars Blessed on the first centenary of the translation of St. Philomena’s Body from Rome to Mugnano. Pius X loved St. Philomena very much and he was truly saddened by the Philomenian question about the originality of the stones found in front of her tomb. St. Pius X, on the May 21, 1912, extended to the whole Church the Archconfraternity of St. Philomena: the highest tribute from a pope who became Saint to a great Saint!
Sainted devotees of St. Philomena
St. John Marie Vianney, Curé of Ars (1876-1859). It was Pauline Jaricot who talked to him about the Saint of Mugnano and introduced her to him. It was she who gifted him with one of her relics. There is not a biography of the Curate of Ars where our Saint is not mentioned. In France he was the greatest promoter of the devotion towards the Saint of Mugnano. He had a statue of St. Philomena placed in his parish church, and then built a Basilica in her honor in Ars. This Basilica, built in the same style of the one in Fourvière, which dominates over Lyon, was terminated after the death of Saint John Marie Vianney. The Saint Curate attributed to the intercession of our Saint, all the numerous miracles performed in Ars.
St. Peter Louis Marie Chanel (1803-1841). He was missionary and first martyr of the mysterious and wild Oceania. His mutual devotion for St. Philomena came from the Curate of Ars. When he embarked in 1836 for the Archipelago of Tonga, he had in his breviary three pictures: Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. Philomena. He would turn to the young Saint of Mugnano in the diffidevotion moments of his apostolate amongst the mistrustful and hostile indigenous. Although not expert in constructions, he started building, trustful in “a Saint for whom he harbors a great devotion”. In honor of the Saint he recited a novena every year in the period of her feast. To one of the first baptized he gave the name Marie Philomeno.
St. Peter Julian Marie Eymard (1811- 1868). His greatest merit was the foundation in 1856 of the Congregation of the Most Blessed Sacrament. He was a very close friend of the Curate of Ars whom he visited regularly. He had a great devotion towards St. Philomena. He loved to kneel down in front of the Saint’s reliquary. In 1854 he was cured by the martyr, after a novena recited in her honor.
St. Madeleine Sophie Barat (1779-1865). She founded in 1802 the Society of the Sacred Heart. In the diffidevotion times of her life and her religious order, Mother Barat invoked with faith the Saint of Mugnano. In her biography she states that on the 11th of September 1846 Barat placed her hands on a surgery patient who was instantly healed. She attributed her healing to St. Philomena, whom she had invoked.
St. John Nepomucene Neumann (1811-1860). In 1840 he joined the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, founded by St. Alfonso Maria de Liguori. He dedicated himself to the missionary activity in the states of New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and in Christian education for youth, founding many parish catholic schools. In 1846, trustful of the help of the Martyr, “to whom God denies nothing for whomever invokes her” and without worrying about the money, he completed the building of the new Church of St. Philomena.
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917). On her numerous journeys, especially the ones from New York to Buenos Aires and through the Andes, she always carried with her a small statue of St. Philomena. We can say that Cabrini, and the Bishop of Philadelphia Mons. Neumann, had the merit of promoting the devotion of the Saint in America more than anyone else. Pius XII declared her Universal Patroness of the Emigrants.
St. Pio of Pietrelcina (1887-1968). For him, St. Philomena was the “Princess of Heaven”. After the liturgical reform of 1961, Father Pio used to imperatively reply to whoever dared to doubt the existence of the Saint: “for the love of God! It might well be that her name is not Philomena, but this Saint has performed many miracles and it is not the name that did them.” This is the wisest reply: who wants to understand, will understand!
St. Maddalena Gabriella of Canossa (1774-1835). She founded the Order of the Canossians (Work of the Charity Daughters), an institution of great religious and human advancement. Mother Madeleine continuously urged her religious sisters towards the love of Christ and the Virgin of Sorrows, and she entrusted them to the patronage of St. Philomena.
St. Hannibal Marie Di Francia (1851-1927). Referring to St. Philomena he used to say: “St. Philomena has become famous for the great miracles that the Lord has worked through her.”
St. Damien de Veuster (1840 – 1889). Father Damien, Belgian missionary of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, spent his life spiritually assisting and curing the lepers relegated to the isle of Molokai in the Hawaiian archipelago. A great devotee of St. Philomena, he dedicated to her the first chapel he built in the leper colony.
Blessed devotees of St. Philomena
The Blessed Bartolo Longo (1841-1926). Founder of the famous Sanctuary of Pompeii was a great devotee of St. Philomena. In 1896 he wrote “Life of St. Philomena Virgin and Martyr”. It was based on the “revelations” of the mystic Neapolitan Sister Marie Louise of Jesus,
The Blessed Anne Marie Taigi (1769-1837). She received the healing of one of her young nieces. The Jesuit P. Gabriel Bouffier affirms that this admirable mother invoked the young Martyr from the Catacombs every night and made her family invoke her also. She had her image displayed in her house and on death’s door, like a good Christian mother, after having given the last recommendations to her sons, she placed them under the special protection of St. Philomena, of whom she had always propagated the devotion.
The Blessed Pius IX (1792-1878). This Pope’s devotion was deep and sincere throughout his whole life. In 1849 he visited the Sanctuary. When young, he was healed by intercession of the Saint. He proclaimed her Second Patron in the vast Neapolitan Kingdom.
Venerable and Servants of God who were Devotees of St. Philomena
Venerable Pauline Marie Jaricot (1799-1862). Pauline Marie Jaricot, founder of the Living Rosary and the Society for the Propagation of the Faith was highly appreciated by Pope Gregory XVI who wanted to personally receive her when she passed through Rome. She had been directed to Mugnano to invoke her healing to our Saint. The astonishing miracle of her healing, which he verified in person, induced Pope Gregory XVI to sign the well known decree of 1837. It was she that gave the relic of St. Philomena to the Curae of Ars and she was one of the promoters of Philomena’s devotion in Lyon and in the whole of France.
Servant of God Sister Marie Louise of Jesus (1799-1875). Intent on spreading of the devotion of St. Philomena and by the echoes of her miracles in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, she founded the religious family of the “Oblates of Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Philomena”. However, her “revelations” on the life and martyrdom of St. Philomena, although answering the need to know more about her life, has effectively brought our Saint towards the legend, detaching her from history. In truth the devotion of St. Philomena did not start from her revelations, nor has it been divulged through them. The Church, in all the official acts in relation to the devotion of our Martyr, has never taken it into account. There is however the sincere devotion of Sister Marie Louise and the beneficial influence that her written work has given to the veneration of St. Philomena.
Venerable Marie Christine of Savoy (1812-1836). With her husband Ferdinand II, she came for the first time to the Sanctuary of Mugnano on April 11, 1835. Immediately after her visit to the Sanctuary, the happy news about the conception of the heir to the throne was announced. The Queen attributed her pregnancy to the intercession of St. Philomena. Many prodigies happened through her intercession. Pius IX in 1853 proclaimed her as Venerable and Pius XI in 1937 declared heroic her virtues. In numerous biographies the great devotion of Marie Christine of Savoy towards St. Philomena is highlighted.
Servant of God, Julie Colbert (1785-1864). Julie Colbert was very devoted to St. Philomena and greatly attached to her Sanctuary. She promoted the devotion of the Saint in the city of Turin. She founded the Daughters of Jesus Good Pastor. The Marchioness of Barolo visited the Sanctuary of St. Philomena in January 1834 and in February 1852, at which time she left a silver heart with a letter for the grace received. Barolo entitled a small, beautiful hospital for sick and crippled young girls to the Saint.
Servant of God Andrew Filomeno Garcia (1800-1853). He emigrated to Montevideo when he was about twenty-three years of age, became mendicant friar at the Franciscans of Santiago. For many years he travelled through the cities and the countryside of Chile, carrying in one hand a small box for offerings, in the other a big picture of St. Philomena that he would show to everybody. To the ones who would stop to listen to him, Friar Garcia would tell about the miracles of the small Saint, leaving them enriched. He also composed prayers and hymns in honor of St. Philomena. He died in Santiago in 1853. Two years later, his body, found in pristine conditions, was buried in the Church of his monastery, at the altar of St. Philomena.
Venerable Father Vito Michael Di Netta (1787-1849). He was a missionary heroic figure of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer founded by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Doctor of the Church, whose preaching in Nola has remained memorable. Father Di Netta nurtured a great devotion towards St. Philomena whom he always invoked in times of the danger he faced as a missionary.
Venerable Jean Claude Colin (1790-1875). Ordained priest in 1816, he founded the Society of Mary. On April 29, 1836 Pope Gregory XVI approved the Marist Congregation and in 1837 Colin was elected its General Superior. Father Colin used to turn to St. Philomena with the same love and trust of the Curae of Ars. In Belley, in an old Capuchin Monastery, he founded an oratory dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, in which he placed a statue of St. Philomena.
Distinguished and common faithful, devotees of St. Philomena.
Mother Mary Theresa (1809-1863). Foundress of the Congregation of the Healing Adoration, owes her vocation to St. Philomena. While painting a picture of St. Philomena, which is now in the Cathedral of Bayeux, she received her vocation and conversion.
Abbot Louis Petit (1852-1914). He devotionivated within his family the love for St. Philomena. He was a seminarian when his parents moved to Paris, living in the area of the parish church of St.-Gervais. This church was the only one in the capital with the devotion of St. Philomena well established. In 1872 he founded the periodical L’Echo de Ste. Philoméne, which he managed to publish for two years. Not yet a priest, he also published Histoire du devotione de St.e Philoméne, “History of the devotion of St. Philomena.” He was ordained in 1879 and two years later joined the Congregation of St. Vincent de Paoli, where he was director of the Messager de Ste. Philoméne until his death. The purpose of his life had been the spreading of the devotion of St. Philomena and he created a center from which to radiate it.
In the Parisian district of High Vaugirard, he built the lovely chapel of St. Philomena in
Rue Dantzig. From here his written work and his
Messager reached France and the rest of the world. In 1883 he received the
approval of the Cord of St. Philomena from the Sacred Congregation of Rites and
spread its devotion through his periodical.
Louis Petit also had the inspiration to found the Work of St. Philomena, with the intention of giving Christian education to the working classes. He joyfully witnessed this pious association become a Universal Archconfraternity with an official act of Pius X on May 21, 1912.
The first century of the finding of St. Philomena’s bones was solemnly celebrated in Rome in 1902. He had the honor of closing these celebrations with a sung Mass.
When the Abbot Petit came to Mugnano to venerate St. Philomena in 1883 and 1902, he uses the wonderful missal donated by Pope Leo XIII for the celebration of the Sacred Mass. He died in Paris in 1914, full of merits towards our Saint whom he deeply loved and venerated.
An endless list. In the whole world, countless individuals of every social condition have venerated St. Philomena. Here are mentioned only a few:
Father Joseph Varin, one of the restorers of the Society of Jesus in France, used to pronounce at least forty times a day the name of the Saint and celebrated a mass in the Sanctuary dedicated to the her.
Father O’Sullivan spread the devotion of St. Philomena in Portugal, Ireland, and USA.
Many writers and artists have had admiration and devotion towards the Saint:
Michael De St. Pierre French catholic novelist, in his biography about the Curate of Ars highlights great fondness for St. Philomena;
Jean Dupré consecrated to St. Philomena the first fruits of his works
the Italian poets Joseph Borghi and Sylvius Pellico wrote hymns in honor of the “Pure Virgin” and the “Invincible Martyr”.
Many Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, from all over the world have come to give homage to St. Philomena in Mugnano and have left their ex voto:
Card. Louis Ruffo Scilla, Archbishop of Naples, who wanted to donate a statue of St. Philomena to the Sanctuary; the English Cardinal Thomas Weld;
Card. James Philip Franzoni, Prefect of Faith Propaganda;
Card. Louis Lambruschini, Secretary of Pius IX; Card. Angelo Mai, Prefect of the Vatican Library; Card. Gabriel della Gerga Sermattei;
Card. Philip Judge Caracciolo, Archbishop of Naples.
In 1837 the Archbishop of Cesarea, went to Mugnano.
In 1852 the Sanctuary was visited by: the Bishop of Chicago, Mons. John James Oliviero Vande Velede; Mons. Vincent Spaccapietra,
Archbishop of Smirne, John Hilary Bost, Bishop of Merida in the Venezuelan Republic.
Rightfully Ippolito writes: “The Sanctuary of St. Philomena in Mugnano has by now become renowned for the continuous visits and pilgrimages of foreigners who expressly come from the most remote corners of the earth. Ecclesiastics, noblemen, conspicuous dames, and people of every class and condition of all nations have all been seen here and they still pour into that fortunate village to venerate the sacred body of the undefeated Heroine, in gratitude for the graces received, imploring her patronage.”