St. Philomena, Virgin & Martyr

Feast Day: August 11th (but is not even on the liturgical calendar)

Also known as: Filomena, Filumena, Philumena, Philomene

Saint Philomena is a saint and martyr of the Roman Catholic Church. Tradition tells us that she is a young Greek princess that was martyred within the 4th century. Her veneration began in the early 19th century as a result of an archaeological find; after news of the find spread, multitude of miracles were granted through her intercession. Nothing was known of this little known saint until her relics were discovered in the ancient Catacombs of Saint Priscilla at the Via Salaria in Rome on May 25, 1802. The tomb was sealed with terra-cotta slabs in the manner usually reserved for nobility or great martyrs.

The tomb had three tiles marked with these words: LUMENA / PAXTE /CUMFI. Reorganizing these words a new phrase takes meaning saying clearly PAXTE/ CUMFI/ LUMENA (Peace be with you Philomena). They also left signs of who was buried there. The archeologist also discovered symbols: 2 anchors, 3 arrows, a palm & even lilies, which would appear to indicate virginity and martyrdom. It was a custom of the early Christians to leave symbols and signs such as these, if somebody they thought to be a Saint, died. In the coffin they found the skeleton of a fourteen year old girl, along with a vial of her dried blood.

On the 10th of August, 1805, the relics of the saint were transferred to Mugnano, in Italy, a hill town near Naples and the home of Canon de Lucia. Continuous miracles of every kind accompanied this transfer. She became one of the most popular saints in the Church, & sometimes called "The Wonder-Worker" because of the countless favors that were attributed to those who prayed to her. For a century and a half there was a worldwide Catholic devotion to St. Philomena, approved by many popes:

  • Pope Leo XII (1823-1829), granted permission for altars to be dedicated and chapels to be built in honour of Saint Philomena. He called her the Great Saint.

  • Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846), mainly as a result of a miracle of healing brought about by Saint Philomena on Blessed Pauline Jaricot, issued a decree authorising the public cultus of Saint Philomena.

  • Blessed Pope Pius IX (1846-1878), named Saint Philomena Patroness of the Children of Mary in 1849. He approved a special Mass in her honour in 1854.

  • Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903), raised the Saint Philomena Confraternity to the rank of an Arch-Confraternity, enriching it with many indulgences. He blessed and approved the Cord of Saint Philomena.

  • Pope Saint Pius X 1903-1914) had great devotion to Saint Philomena.. He encouraged an increase of devotion to the Saint and commanded that decisions and declarations of his predecessors concerning her be in no way changed.

But amazingly, since the 1960's, she has been almost forgotten. On February 14, 1961, prior to the Second Vatican Council, the Sacred Congregation of Rites in Rome issued an instruction of Pope Paul VI and removed St. Philomena's feast day from the liturgical calendars.

The Story:

Tradition tells us that Philomena's parents were pagans, and rulers of a Greek state. Their false gods could not provide them of what they longed desperately to have a child. When they converted to Christianity, the two were blessed with a child whom they named Philomena which signifies "Daughter of Light." It was on this account that they took her to Rome on a journey that her father was obliged to make on the occasion of an unjust war with which he was threatened by the haughty Diocletian. Philomena was just then only thirteen years old. When they arrived in Rome, they proceeded to the palace of the Emperor and were admitted for an audience. As soon as Diocletian saw Philomena, she caught Diocletian's eyes. The Emperor was enthralled by her beauty and wanted to marry her. But she refused and vowed to give herself to God. He wanted Philomena to be his wife, but she rejected many times his offer. Finally in a fit of fury he had her chained in a dungeon. During that time, Christians were banned in that place. Philomena rejected all his offers, even though she was tortured and threatened with death. She was bound to a pillar and was savagely tortured. Seeing Philomena was terribly wounded Diocletian had her brought back to the prison to die. But she didn't. He ordered her to be thrown in a river with an anchor tied to her neck. The emperor was still hoping she would change her mind, but she refused again. Philomena still kept her promise to the Lord. After being thrown in the river Philomena survived again. Diocletian ordered to throw her again in the river, but also this time she survived. Then he ordered her killed by arrows. but she survived.

Due the fact that many saw how she was beaten & treated, and that she was still alive, they started to accept the Faith of Philomena and become Christian. Determined to put end to this shame and stop conversions, the emperor led her to be beheaded. And this all because she refused to lose her virginity to Diocletian. It's highly recommended, that if you need any help, you ask for her prayers. Today many still went to her shrine in Mugnano, Italy, where her relics can still be found.

Patroness: of youth; of the Children of Mary; desperate causes; forgotten causes; impossible causes.