St. Philomena: Wonder-Worker Patron Saint Of The Traditional Roman Catholic Movement
by Mark Alessio
The daughter of a Greek king beheaded by emperor Diocletian in Rome, St. Philomena was ordered put to death as punishment for not marrying him. The emperor ordered archers to execute her with arrows, which, according to legend, turned back and killed the archers instead.
The emperor then ordered her killed by tying an anchor around her neck and throwing her into water. But, according to legend, angels broke the rope and brought her to land with dry feet.
She was beheaded after people who saw the miracles began to riot. Her body was found May 25, 1802, in the Catacombs of St. Priscilla at Via Salaria in Rome. She was believed to be 13 or 14 years old when she died.
She was declared a saint by Pope Leo XII (1823-1829) and afterwards her veneration was personally encouraged by Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846), Pope Pius IX (1846-1878), Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903), and Pope St. Pius X (1903-1914). Over the years, many miracles have been attributed to St. Philomena, including the restoration of eyesight, the ability to walk and the reversal of paralysis.
There is a very interesting aria in the opera MEPHISTOPHELES by Arrigo Boito. In it, Mephistopheles introduces himself to Faust in these words: “I am the spirit who denies everything always; the stars, the flowers. My sneering and my hostility disturb the Creator’s leisure. I want Nothingness and the universal ruin of Creation.”
Try as one may, it would be difficult to come up with a more concise credo for those spiritual malefactors we group together under the designation “Modernists”. “Denial” is indeed the catchword of the times and it has really ceased to matter exactly what is being denied, as long as it represents something wholesome and salutary, as long as it connects us somehow to a past which understood such basic terms as “natural,” “unnatural,” “right” and “wrong”.
Many of us who had fallen away from the faith of our fathers reaped the bitter harvest of this modern Spirit of Denial, and made our way slowly and painfully back to real Roman Catholicism with our heads spinning. By the grace of God, we now stand on a solid shoreline, the sound of the Latin liturgy echoing consolingly in our ears, and look back over the waters we’ve traveled, shaking our heads in disbelief at the insurmountable odds we’ve beaten just to get there. Gratitude to Christ and Our Lady comes easy in those moments, and we wonder then how in the world it could ever be possible that a Catholic could despise any of the gifts of God.
We ask ourselves how anyone can listen to the song of Mephistopheles and see therein anything but the disease it truly is. But people listen. They stop and ponder and draw near. And then it’s Eden all over again.
A Church once marked by gratitude to God expressed in its most tender and extravagant forms has become one of cynical, hollow stares, of confusion and sublimated rage. People are not animals. They know, deep down in the wells of their beings, that they have been cheated, and their response is a virulent one: apathy. Holy Days of Obligation are relegated to history, Saints are “cast out of Heaven” by angry experts, statues, altars and sanctuaries are profaned through intense liturgical programs and priests desecrate their Churches with interfaith services and the man in the pew nods and continues dropping his Sunday envelope into the basket like clockwork.
The Spirit of Denial leaves nothing untouched, casting its unclean shadow across anything or anyone that blocks its path. This article is offered in defense of one particular victim of the Modernist’s “Spirit,” a holy and powerful Saint who, because of her solicitous actions on behalf of the Church Militant, deserves so much better than she has received in our time. This Saint is St. Philomena, “the Thaumaturga (Wonder-Worker) of the 19th Century”. The smear campaign perpetrated against this noble Virgin-Martyr exemplifies not only the Modernists’ animosity towards the Sacred, but also their complete willingness to circumvent both reason and fact should the ideological need arise for it.
And so, today, the name of St. Philomena has come to symbolize a “mistake,” prudently covered up by an “enlightened” Church. On February 14, 1961 the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued a liturgical directive removing St. Philomena’s feast day, August 11th, from all liturgical calendars. Although the directive neither denied Philomena’s sainthood nor prohibited private devotion to her, it was a sad day for Christ’s Church, a Church which had, until then, shown nothing but the warmest and sincerest respect for her holy Martyrs. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let us first ask the question: who is St. Philomena?
The significance of the events surrounding the discovery of the relics of St. Philomena on May 24, 1802, certainly did not go unnoticed by St. John Vianney who later referred to her as the “new light of the Church Militant”. And a “new light” she was, literally coming forth from the bowels of the earth after lying in obscurity for more than 1500 years in the Catacombs of St. Priscilla in Rome. Her tomb itself, discovered by “fossors,” or excavators, was located in a chamber which had apparently remained undisturbed since the remains were first entombed. When the small band of fossors, assistants and clerics prepared to open the tomb on the following day (May 25th), the first thing they encountered was a mystery, for the loculus (tomb) was sealed by three terra-cotta tiles upon which were printed: “Lumena / Paxte / Cumfi.”
Also depicted on these tiles were symbols of martyrdom two anchors, two arrows, a palm, a javelin and a lily (the emblem of purity). The inscription is meaningless unless the first tile is placed at the end, thereby spelling out the phrase: “Paxte / Cumfi/Lumena.
“Pax tecum, Filumena.” “Peace be with you, Philomena.” There was no question that the tiles should have been positioned thus. Was the mistaken order the result of the tomb having been sealed hurriedly in times of persecution? The fact that some tiles have been discovered in the Catacombs with their letters upside down lends weight to the theory. Archaeologists dated the tomb at 150 or 160 A.D. A renowned authority in the field of Christian archaeology, De Rossi, wrote: “The cemetery of Priscilla enjoys the fame of being one of the most ancient and primordial of the Roman Church. There…the compilers of historical martyrologies point out the sepulchers of Pudens, of his daughters Pudentiana and Praxedes, of the priest Semetris with other martyrs,whose burial is said to have been effected by those holy sisters in the times of Antoninus Pius…Prisca, who, some tokens lead me to suspect, had to do with the married pair Aquila and Prisca, or Priscilla … Philip and Felix, two of the celebrated martyred sons of St. Felicitas, put to death…in the year 162, under Marcus Aurelius …”
A Monsignor Brownlow, also writing of the Cemetery of Priscilla, states: “Besides the name of Peter, quite a large number of the names mentioned by St. Paul in the XVIth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans are found in this locality.”
Such is the distinguished company among whom the earthly remains of Philomena rested as the centuries turned over and the Church fought on, amidst ever newer and more diabolical persecutions.
The sight that greeted those who were privileged to open Philomena’s tomb was that of a small skeleton, the bones of a girl about twelve or thirteen years old. Fr. Charles Henry Bowden, writing in 1894, reports that, “The head of the Saint was much fractured but the chief bones were entire.” Besides the relics of the young martyr, the tomb contained a small broken glass vase containing some of her dried blood. This was a very important find. Fr. Bowden observes: “But there is another still more certain and more venerable indication of martyrdom than the symbols engraved upon the tombs, namely, the generous blood of the victims. The practice of gathering up and preserving the blood of the martyrs is minutely described by many of the early Fathers, and was carefully observed by the Christians.”
So, on May 25, 1802, the tomb of St. Philomena, located in Catacombs dating to the Apostolic Age, was opened. On the outside of it were tiles decorated with a loving inscription painted by the early Christians, and inside were not only the priceless relics of the young girl herself, but the remains of a small ampule full of her blood that had been carefully collected and buried along with her by those same Christians. Not a bad resume at all for a Saint whom the Modernists would like us to believe “never really existed”!
St. Philomena wasted no time in calling God’s elect to a renewed wonder of the bounty and mysteries of the Catholic life. As the dried blood was being transferred from the broken vase to a clean urn, everyone present was amazed to find that the particles “were transformed into various precious and shining bodies; some presenting the luster and color of the purest gold, some of silver, some appearing like diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and other precious stones”.
This prodigy was witnessed firsthand by Fr. Paul O’Sullivan, who has written a number of popular books on various Catholic topics. While on a visit to St. Philomena’s Shrine in Mugnano, Italy, Fr. O’Sullivan wrote: “I had the happiness of examining this priceless treasure as many as thirty or forty times. Each time, without fail, I saw the blood change most marvelously, and the transformation was so clear and distinct as not to allow room for the smallest doubt or misconception.”
When the relics were brought out into the light of day, they were examined by theologians and physicians and sealed inside a silk-lined casket, along with signed documentation. The casket was then carried to the Custodia Generale, and deposited among other relics to spend three more years in obscurity.
It was in May of 1805 that the path of St. Philomena crossed with that of Don Francesco di Lucia, a priest from the town of Mugnano, located twenty miles north of Naples. Don Francesco wanted very much to obtain a relic for his Church, preferably that of a virgin-martyr who could inspire the youth of the parish to virtue.
While accompanying the Bishop-elect of Potenza, Don Bartolemeo di Cesare, to Rome as secretary, the priest from Mugnano petitioned the Treasure House of Relics. Through the influence of his companion, the Bishop, Don Francesco was admitted to the Treasure House and presented to its guardian. Apparently, the teaming-up of the village priest and the youthful Virgin-Martyr was a match made in Heaven. Don Francesco describes their first “meeting” in these memorable words: “Upon seeing the relic of St. Philomena an invisible force agitated me internally and externally. Then I felt an unusual and intense joy in my heart, and I was filled with a pure desire to possess her sacred body. This was so evident in my countenance that even the custodian of the Treasurybecame aware of it … At the same time I realized that it would be utterly impossible for me, a poor priest, to be so favored since the relics of identified martyrs were so rare.”
The body of Philomena was denied Don Francesco, on the grounds that it was too precious and should be preserved for a more glorious bestowal, and the relics of St. Ferma, another “girl saint” were given to him instead. It was not long after the relics of St. Ferma were safely in Don Francesco’s keeping then an unexpected development arose.
The relics of St. Philomena were delivered to the residence of Don Bartolomeo, who ordered that they be taken to the room of his secretary for “safekeeping”. The secretary was, of course, Don Francesco! The two men decided upon an exchange. St. Ferma would find her place with the Bishop, in a Church in his new diocese, while St. Philomena would be transferred to Naples and then enshrined at Mugnano. Sr. Marie Helene Mohr sums up the incident: “It was truly evident that Philomena wanted to go with the poor parish priest to help his people. The sensible bishop dismissed the traditional idea about reserving this latest treasure for a member of the hierarchy or a famous Church.”
Once again, a fascinating turn of events surrounding a Saint who “never existed”, according to the more mature, enlightened of our brethren.
From this point on, Philomena begins to display that spontaneous, joyful persona that prompted one Archbishop to say: “Are you going to tell me these things of the Thaumaturga St. Philomena? I have grown old amid the playful things which she does in my own palace. The first such incident occurred during the coach ride from Rome to Naples. Unbeknown to Don Francesco and the Bishop, the case containing the relics of St. Philomena had been wedged under their seat, the servants presuming that it would be more secure there.
While the Bishop was sitting down, waiting for the carriage to depart, he was aware of his legs being struck from underneath the seat. Repeated investigations produced no loose baggage which might have caused the repeated blows, particularly in a stationary coach! When a servant finally pulled the small relic case out from beneath the seat,
where it was quite firmly lodged, and the Bishop realized what it was, he was astonished, having given the order previously that the case ride atop the front seat.
As the two priests rode on, eyeing the small case now resting motionless on its seat, the Bishop began to wonder aloud: “It didn’t just slip forward against me. I was rapped very hard.”
Cecily Hallack, recounting the story in her small book on St. Philomena, wryly observes: “But the more he described the blows, the more evident it became that they were not the kind of blows he could possibly have got from something of this size and weight slipping forward. There was nothing for it but to realize that Philomena had rapped the episcopal legs.”
Apparently, the Saint whose relics had lain in the dark shadows of the Catacombs for over a millennia and a half didn’t relish the idea of these relics being transferred to their new home in a manner more suited to ordinary baggage or bundles of laundry. Other miraculous occurrences attended the journey of the Saint to her new home.
Once these relics were installed in the Church of Santa Maria della Grazie in Mugnano, in a special reliquary designed in the image of a young girl, miracles of more serious import began to visit the populace in astounding numbers.
The variety of these miracles alone staggers the imagination: cures of blindness, physical ailments and maimed limbs, the bestowal of fertility on barren women, rescues of people in danger of drowning, falling or being killed in accidents, material assistance to the needy.
Many of these miracles were attested to in documents signed by reliable witnesses. The number of ex voto offerings donated to the Shrine in token of benefits received would eventually grow to such a number that they would have to be stored in a separate area.
Two Noteworthy Cures
Two cures effected by St. Philomena are worth highlighting. The first involved the Archbishop of Imola, a fervent client of the Saint and great promoter of devotion to her, who succumbed to a serious illness to the point where it seemed his death was imminent. As he lay in bed, apparently ready to breathe his last, knockings were heard on his bedside table. These knockings, which were also experienced firsthand by Fr. Paul O’Sullivan in Mugnano, signified that the Saint was about to grant some special grace. In the case of the Archbishop of Imola, this signal heralded a complete recovery. This Archbishop went on to become Pope Pius IX, the man who solemnly pronounced the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
The second cure of particular interest in the saga of St. Philomena is that of the Venerable Pauline Jaricot, a young and very pious French girl who suffered from serious heart problems.
Determined to go to the Shrine at Mugnano to petition St. Philomena for help, Pauline, accompanied by two nurses and a chaplain, crossed the Alps and made for Rome to receive the blessing of Pope Gregory XVI. Her travels took such a toll on her health that she found herself too ill to leave the convent in which she was staying. The Pope, grateful to Pauline for having established both the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and the Living Rosary Association, went himself to visit her at the convent. It was there that Pauline made a “deal” with the Vicar of Christ. She put it to him in these words: “If on my return from Mugnano I were to come to the Vatican on foot, then would Your Holiness deign to proceed without delay to the final inquiry into the cause of Philomena?” (i.e., the canonization of Philomena).
No doubt Pauline’s great affection for Philomena had been encouraged by St. John Vianney, whom she knew personally and who had asked her to obtain a relic of the Saint for his own Church. The Pope agreed, stating that such a feat would constitute “a miracle of the first order”. As he left, however, he turned to the Mother Superior of he convent and remarked, “How ill she is! …We shall never see her again.”
Pauline reached Mugnano in such straits that she could only point her finger to indicate where she wished to be taken. On August 10th, while attempting to kneel at the Shrine, Pauline collapsed, but signaled that she didn’t wish to be moved. Then, a feeling of warmth spread through her body, color returned to her face and, to the joy of the townspeople who were not ignorant of the drama being played out in their Church, Pauline was cured.
The second act of this drama would take place in the audience chamber at the Vatican, where Pauline was admitted incognito and went at first unrecognized by Pope Gregory. When he realized who was standing before him, he exclaimed, “And has she come back from the grave, or has God manifested in her favor the power of the Virgin-Martyr?” The Holy Father was true to his word and, on January 30, 1837, the Decree was promulgated which authorized devotion to St. Philomena and granted to the clergy of Nola (the diocese which includes Mugnano) the privilege of celebrating Mass in her honor. Again, a truly remarkable chain of events surrounding a Saint whom we are told “never really existed”!
Now that the “hard facts” concerning the discovery and subsequent veneration of St. Philomena have been set forth, we can venture into a realm that promises further information on the life of the “Thaumaturga of the 19th Century”. On December 21, 1883, the Holy Office sanctioned the printing of a series of revelations on the life of St. Philomena which had been granted to three persons a nun, a priest and an artisan. We understand that this Imprimatur assures that the revelations contain nothing contrary to faith, and does not indicate any further pronouncement regarding their content by the Church. That the same “biography” was related to three people, unknown to each other, is certainly a fact worth considering.
In August 1833, Mother Luisa di Gesu, a Dominican tertiary, while at prayer before a statue of St. Philomena, began to wonder about the details of the Saint’s life. When she heard the voice of the Saint speaking to her, her first reaction was one of caution Sr.
Mohr noted this concern: “Fearing that she might be under an illusion, Mother Luisa intensified her prayer life. She obtained permission to observe rigorous fasts. She also penanced herself in every thinkable manner without injuring her health. Her directors enjoined absolute silence on her part, advising her to refrain from discussing the
revelation or trying to recall it. This test of her obedience proved the sincerity of the nun.”
A letter was sent to Don Francesco at Mugnano, asking him to answer certain questions concerning the Shrine, which Mother Luisa had never seen, and the revelations. He corroborated the facts concerning the Shrine and, to her relief, Mother Luisa’s superiors gave her permission and encouraged her to petition the Saint for information on her life and martyrdom. The revelations granted to this obedient nun, echoed in those reported by the priest and artisan, tell us that Philomena’s father was the prince of a small Greek state and that her parents, childless and desiring children, embraced Christianity on the advice of a Christian physician from Rome. The happy result of this conversion was a daughter whom they named Lumena, a reference to the “light” of the faith they acknowledged as the source of their joy. At her baptism, the girl was given the name Filumena (filia luminis — i.e., “daughter of light”).
The next event set forth in the revelations is the visit to Rome of Philomena, now a beautiful young girl, and her parents, her father being obliged to meet with Emperor Diocletian over the matter of hostilities threatened by Rome upon their homeland. At this meeting, the Emperor exhibited an inordinate desire for the young princess. Her parents, pleased with the honor accorded them by an Emperor of Rome asking for their daughter’s hand, entreated her to accept the proposal. Their entreaties turned to anger when their daughter insisted on remaining a virgin for Jesus Christ. The girl was brought before the Emperor in the hopes that some alluring promises might sway her, but her obstinacy landed her in prison, bound in chains. As the Saint related this, she noted that the angry Diocletian was “influenced by the devil”. After thirty-seven days, Our Lady appeared to Philomena to announce her coming tribulations with the encouraging words: “In the moment of struggle grace will come to thee to lend its force. The angel who is mine also, Gabriel, whose name expresses force, will come to thy succor. I will recommend thee especially to his care.”
Diocletian, in a rage that Philomena would prefer a “malefactor” (i.e., Our Lord) to him, had the girl publicly lashed, after which she was tended to by angels while in her cell. Another meeting, during which Philomena defended the faith against the wiles of both the Emperor and his courtiers, who attempted to impress upon her that her selection by Diocletian was desired by Jupiter himself, ended with the Saint condemned to death. She was to have an anchor tied around her neck and thrown into the Tiber (recall the anchors depicted on the tiles of her tomb). This was not an uncommon form of execution for Rome. Our Lord referred to it in the Gospels: “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea (St. Matthew 18:6).”
Through the ministry of angels, the anchor was loosened and the Saint was returned to shore. As she tells of this miraculous escape, she adds an incidental observation regarding the anchor: “It fell into the river mud, where it remains, no doubt, to the present time.” It’s a small detail, true, but a very human observation, the sort of afterthought one tacks on when relating an experience to a friend. We are further told that this miraculous rescue resulted in the conversion of many who witnessed it. When a shower of arrows (recall again the symbols on the tiles) failed to harm the Saint, she was again cast into a dungeon cell. The Emperor, accusing her of sorcery, ordered that flaming arrows be used on the next attempt, but these ended up killing the archers themselves. Again, conversions followed.
Finally, the innocent young girl who had been named “daughter of light” at her baptism was killed, and her soul sent to its place among the elect, when her neck was pierced by a lance (recall the condition of the skull found in the tomb).
Sound fanciful? Certainly no more so than the stigmata of St. Francis, or the Battle of Lepanto. Roman Catholics who still believe in the Resurrection or the Assumption of Our Lady have no trouble with the obvious and overwhelming fact that there truly are “more things in Heaven and earth” than are dreamed of in our meager philosophies. No one is bound to accept the veracity of these revelations of the life and death of St. Philomena. The Modernists would, in fact, be quitepleased if such things were swept under the rug. But just what kind of person accepts such stories of angels and escapes, of virtue triumphant against all odds? St. John Vianney, for one, who alluded to the events of Philomena’s life in the “Litany of St. Philomena” he composed for his “dear little Saint”:
St. Philomena, scourged like thy Divine Spouse …
St. Philomena, pierced by a shower of arrows …
St. Philomena, consoled by the Mother of God, when in chains …
St. Philomena, comforted by angels in thy torments …
St. Philomena, who converted the witnesses of thy martyrdom …
Should you feel moved to accord these revelations the respect due to any other gift of God, you will find yourself in good company. Of course, there are those of the other camp, the ones who tell us that St. Philomena “never really existed”. How does one answer such people? How about with the following words of Pope St. Pius X: “… to discredit the present decisions and declarations concerning St. Philomena as not being permanent, stable, valid and effective, necessary of obedience, and in full-effect for all eternity, proceeds from an element that is null and void and without merit or authority.
Strong, clear words from the man who realized perhaps more acutely than any other the real dangers of Modernism.
Nor was the great Pius X alone among the Vicars of Christ in his deep respect for St. Philomena. We have already mentioned Pope Pius IX and the cure effected for him by the Saint. On November 7, 1849, he showed his deep love for his benefactress by celebrating a Mass on the altar dedicated to her in her sanctuary and, in the same year, he named her “Patroness of the Children of Mary”. In 1854, Rome approved a Proper Mass and Office in St. Philomena’s honor.
Pope Gregory XVI, who had personally witnessed the miraculous recovery of Pauline Jaricot, was responsible for Philomena’s canonization and her place on the Calendar. He also sent to theShrine at Mugnano a gold and silver lamp as a token of his affection and esteem. He gave St. Philomena the title of “Patroness of the Living Rosary”.
Pope Leo XIII made two visits to the Shrine at Mugnano while he was apostolic administrator of Benevento, and sent to the Shrine a Cross from the Vatican Exposition. He raised the Confraternity of St. Philomena to the rank of archconfraternity and approved the wearing of her Cord, attaching to it indulgences and privileges. If we add to this list of Pontiffs the names of Saints who were devoted to Philomena — the Cure of Ars, St. Peter Julian Eymard, St. Peter Chanel, to name a few — we assemble an impressive list, a very impressive list of people devoted to a Saint who the Modernists decided “never really existed”.
Philomena Under Siege
So, what happened? How is it that a Saint revered throughout the Catholic world, one in honor of whom devotional Masses were offered, to whom numerous Shrines were erected and endowed, who was credited with the performance of abundant and varied miracles should find herself the victim of a malicious plot to dethrone her from the seat of honor she merited by a cruel and heroic martyrdom? The authors who have undertaken to write the story of Philomena have set forth their ideas on the subject.
Sr. Marie Helene Mohr wrote: “Truly, St. Philomena’s popularity would scarcely have circulated throughout the world had not those who are devoted to her received signal favors in response to their prayers to her for help …For if she is a saint, she is a saint; and if she is “powerful with God”, she is powerful with God. And there is nothing we can do at this late date in history to contravene the facts.
The use of the word “facts” is appropriate here. St. Philomena enjoys the distinction of having miracles performed by her attested to in signed documents. For instance, when the statue of the Saint at Mugnano was observed to exude manna (a clear fluid) in August 1823, two documents were drawn up and signed by eyewitnesses. One document, with eighteen signatures, was signed by priests and stewards. The other, boasting 27 names, including the signatures of the burgess, police deputy and communal chancellor.
Fr. Paul O’Sullivan, who received signal favors from the Saint at her Shrine, wrote: “It must strike any thoughtful Catholic as strange that one of the most loved and lovable of Saints, whose cult is producing such marvelous results for good all over the world and is being blessed every day by constant, striking and well-authenticated wonders, is so frequently singled out as an object of attack, not by Protestants or Free-thinkers, but by Catholics themselves…The disciple is not above his master, nor is the servant above his Lord, so that clients of St. Philomena must not be alarmed if a like treatment is meted out to their saintly Protectress…Well might she ask her traducers, as did the Divine Master before her: “For which of my good works do you stone me?'”
Philomena’s enemies, which are those of Christ and His Church, alleged many things in their accusations against the Virgin-Martyr. One claimed that the ampule of blood was found outside the tomb. Another that Philomena was “in pretense a Saint, but in reality she is neither a saint, nor a Virgin, nor a Martyr, nor a Philomena”. All such accusations, malicious in nature, have been answered by competent, clearheaded authorities. That such accusations fly in the face of pronouncements made by venerable Popes should automatically sound a warning bell to the faithful.
Again, what happened? What “Spirit of Denial” prompted the Sacred Congregation of Rites to issue the following “liturgical” directive, which was recorded on March 29, 1961 in the Acts of the Apostolic See: “But the Feast of St. Philomena, Virgin and Martyr (August 11th), should be removed from every calendar whatsoever.”
Yes, the vengeful, inexplicable offensive taken against the Virgin-Martyr, Philomena, was done in the name of liturgical reform. And this will come as no surprise whatsoever to those with eyes to see, those Catholics who interpret the popular term “liturgical directive” in its current, true sense carte blanche for the dismantling of Roman Catholicism. So at last we come down to it. St. Philomena was, quite simply, in the way. And so, she was carted off in the middle of the night, like a character from an old “Cold War” thriller. The “Spirit” that couldn’t tolerate the Canonical Mass, reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, Our Blessed Mother or the innocence of children found in St. Philomena a perfect victim for its rage. Laying aside for a moment her numerous miracles, she had come to symbolize many things which did not sit well in the plans of the Modernists. She symbolized chastity and a heroic perseverance that would certainly trouble those who find the term “Church Militant” offensive. Devotion to her, as expressed by the common people, was rife with the beautiful treasures of Catholicism so despised by the new “Spirit”: novenas, sacramentals, statuary and pictures, blessed oil, chaplets, cords and indulgences, special prayers and litanies. It reads like a catalog deliberately intended to both edify the laity and turn the stomachs of the Modernists.
The attacks against St. Philomena, like those directed against the Holy Mass, are not solely of recent vintage. In 1906, Fr. Buonavenia a Jesuit archaeologist, wrote a volume on the “controversy” surrounding the Saint, in which he refuted the slanderous accusations made agains ther by other men in his field. Yet, it wasn’t until 1961 and the eve of Vatican II that the forces lying in wait to “dismantle” the Church started to move … in the name of the “liturgy,” of course. But God will not be mocked. Just as the Tridentine Mass continues to flourish, showering abundant graces and summoning the children of Mother Church home to a vital, true Faith, so other tears appear in the fabric of the false reality erected by the architects of the “New Religion”.
Fr. Timothy Hopkins, Representative of the central Shrine of St. Philomena in Mugnano del Cardinale, Italy, for the cultus of the Saint in the State of Florida, writes in his newsletter of March 1996, that as recently as 1994, he obtained a first class relic of the Saint from Bishop Canisius Van Lierde, Vicar General to the Pope and Keeper of the Church’s Holy Relics. Father uses this fact to make an astute observation: “One cannot believe that one of the highest Roman authorities would be an agent of promoting the veneration of the ‘relics’ of a Saint who never existed!”
Fr. Hopkins follows this observation with another that, perhaps more than all the others quoted above, cuts to the heart of the matter. Why was St. Philomena attacked? Why were so many of her beautiful Shrines (including, hard as it is to believe, the one at Ars, France) destroyed? Why did it suddenly become so important, urgent enough to call for a “directive”, to undertake the Orwellian task of erasing all traces of the “Thaumaturga of the 19th Century” from Catholic liturgical and devotional life? In short, why such unexplainable rage directed against a “Girl Saint” beloved for over a century by Popes, Saints and God only knows how many lay people?
Perhaps the most concise and penetrating answer to these queries was provided by Fr. Hopkins in his newsletter: “We must see the action taken in 1961 as the work of the devil (whether consciously or unconsciously done, God only knows) in order to deprive the people of God with a most powerful intercessor, particularly in the area of purity and faith, at a time when such intercession was most needed.
Obviously, it wasn’t only Emperor Diocletian who, “influenced by the devil”, moved against the young Saint, according to her legend. St. Paul warned us that our battles would be against “principalities and powers”, and the facts are obvious. Now would be a good time to take a stand, to really rattle the cages of the devil and his minions and give glory to God for His bounty: Pray to St. Philomena. Ask for her intercession. Take her as a Patron Saint and confide your children to her care. Say her litany. Read a short book about her. Utter a few words to her during your evening prayers. Remember her feast day, which was so unceremoniously “wiped off the books”. The enemies of Our Lord, Our Lady and Our Church don’t want spiritual devotions to happen. That fact alone recommends such actions to all sincere Catholics. God is generous, and we get nowhere by spurning His gifts.
St. Philomena, Beloved Daughter of Jesus & Mary, Pray for Us!
[For literature on St. Philomena, as well as holy cards, prayer books,
Cords and other devotional items, you may contact contact the Universal
Living Rosary Association, P.O. Box 1303, Dickinson, TX 77539, or the
Shrine of St. Philomena, 1946 SW 9th Street, Miami, FL 33135.]
Fr. Charles Henry Bowden: History of St. Philomena (1894)
Sr. Marie Helene Mohr: St. Philomena, Powerful with God (1953)
Fr. Paul O’Sullivan: St. Philomena the Wonder-Worker (1927)
Cecily Hallack: St. Philomena: Virgin-Martyr & Wonder-Worker (1940)
Don Francesco de Lucia: St. Philomena, Virgin & Martyr (1865)