Thursday, August 11, 2011

St. Philomena

On May 25, 1802, excavators in the ancient Catacomb of St. Priscilla in Rome came upon a well-preserved shelf tomb sealed with terra-cotta slabs in the manner usually reserved for nobility or great martyrs. The tomb was marked with three tiles, inscribed with the following confusing words: LUMENA / PAXTE / CUMFI. However, if one places the first tile last and separates the words properly, the very intelligible sentence emerges: "Pax tecum, Filumena", which is, "Peace be with you, Philomena" Also inscribed on the tiles were symbols: a lily, arrows, an anchor and a lance, which would appear to indicate virginity and martyrdom. Inside the coffin there were discovered the remains of a girl of about twelve or thirteen years of age, along with a vial or ampulla of her dried blood.
Transferred to the Treasury of the Rare Collection of Christian Antiquity in the Vatican, the remains were soon forgotten by the public, especially since no record existed of a virgin martyr named Philomena. But in 1805, a Neapolitan priest, Don Francesco di Lucia, traveling to Rome with his newly appointed bishop, requested and, after a brief delay, received the relics of this martyr "Philomena" to enshrine in his village church at Mugnano, near Naples.
Immediately upon the official donation of St. Philomena’s sacred remains, signal favors began to be granted through her intercession and unusual events to occur. The favors, graces and even miracles started to increase, even before her enshrinement at Mugnano, and they steadily grew in number thereafter-such that this virgin martyr soon earned the title, "Philomena, Powerful with God." In 1837, only 35 years after her exhumation, Pope Gregory XVI elevated this "Wonder-Worker of the Nineteenth Century" to sainthood. In an act unprecedented in the history of Catholicism, she became the only person recognized by the Church as a Saint solely on the basis of her powerful intercession, since nothing historical was known of her except her name and the evidence of her martyrdom.
But truly, as her devotees have discovered, no case, of whatever matter is too trivial or too unimportant to concern her. Among her most devoted clients was St. John Vianney (the Cure D'Ars) whose childlike devotion to this virgin Saint played an intimate part in his daily life. Other Saints who were always devoted to her, prayed to her and sang her praises were : St. Peter Julian Eymard, St.Peter Chanel, St. Anthony Mary Claret, St. Madelaine Sophie Barat, St. Euphrasia Pelletier, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, St. John Nepomucene Neumann, Blessed Anna Maria Taigi and Ven. Pauline Jaricot.
A number of Popes have also shown remarkable devotion to Philomena as well: Pope Leo XII (1823-1829) expressed the great admiration for this unknown child-saint and gladly gave his permission for the erection of altars and churches in her honor. Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846), who authorized her public veneration showed his esteem and devotion to the Saint by giving her the title of "Patroness of the Living Rosary." A Mass and proper Office in her honor were approved by him in 1834 or 1835. This is extraordinary privilege granted to comparatively few Saints. Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) proclaimed her "Patroness of the Children of Mary." Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) made two pilgrimages to her shrine before his election to the papacy. After he had become the Vicar of Christ, he gave a valuable cross to the sanctuary He approved the Confraternity of St. Philomena and later raised it to an Arch-confraternity (which is still headquartered at her shrine at Mugnano, Italy). Pope St. Pius X (1903-1914) spoke warmly of her and manifested his devotion to her in various ways. Costly gifts were given by him to her shrine.
Patron: against barrenness, against bodily ills, against infertility, against mental illness, against sickness, against sterility, babies, children, Children of Mary, desperate causes, forgotten causes, impossible causes, infants, lost causes, Living Rosary, newborns, orphans, poor people, priests, prisoners, sick people, students, test takers, toddlers, young people, youth
Symbols: anchor (an image of one was inscribed on her tomb); arrows; crown; lily.

Prayer

We beseech Thee, O Lord, to grant us the pardon of our sins by the intercession of Saint, virgin and martyr, who was always pleasing in Thy sight by her eminent chastity and by the profession of every virtue. Amen.

Illustrious virgin and martyr, Saint Philomena, behold me prostrate before the throne whereupon it has pleased the Most Holy Trinity to place thee. Full of confidence in thy protection, I entreat thee to intercede for me with God, from the heights of Heaven deign to cast a glance upon thy humble client! Spouse of Christ, sustain me in suffering, fortify me in temptation, protect me in the dangers surrounding me, obtain for me the graces necessary to me, and in particular (Here specify your petition).

Above all, assist me at the hour of my death. Saint Philomena, powerful with God, pray for us. Amen.

O God, Most Holy Trinity, we thank Thee for the graces Thou didst bestow upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, and upon Thy handmaid Philomena, through whose intercession we implore Thy Mercy. Amen.

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