Thud, thud, thud.
It was 1802. The workmen’s pickaxes chipped away at the dirt that had caked the walls and floor of St. Priscilla’s catacomb for centuries.
Thud, thud, thud.
Thud, thud, CLUNK.
The workmen were suddenly alert. Here was a sound different from the dull thump of grimed metal on crusty dirt which they had heard for hours (if not days) on end! Quickly clearing away the earth, they discovered three ancient tiles, bearing some simple drawings in red paint and a line of letters:
PAX TECUM FILUMENA
For roughly 1,500 years, these words had kept watch in darkness and silence over the tomb of a young Christian martyred during Diocletian’s great persecution. Now, a Vatican overseer came to the site…the tomb of the unknown martyr was opened…and the relics of a young girl—no older than fifteen or fourteen—were placed in the treasury of Sacred Relics.
Philomena is the English version of Filumena, which comes from the Latin meaning “Daughter of Light.”
In 1805, a priest from Mugnano del Cardinale, Fr. Francesco di Lucia, obtained her relics from Rome and transferred them to the Church of Our Lady of Grace.
A host of miracles were reported to follow the arrival of Philomena’s relics: a boy crippled from birth was able to walk…a blind girl regained her sight…the archbishop’s assistant was healed on his deathbed upon calling out to the saint…and the resurrection of a young boy who had succumbed to chronic illness, to name a few.
Pope Gregory XVI authorized Philomena’s public veneration with a Mass and Divine Office in 1837, although the lack of verifiable background concerning this martyr ultimately prevented her feast day from remaining on the official Church calendar. It was removed in 1961.
Nevertheless, fervent devotion to her has grown quickly in the 200 years since her discovery, including her veneration by several saints such as Padre Pio and Frances Xavier Cabrini. The abundance of miracles attributed to her intercession earned her the title of “Wonder-worker.”
St. John Vianney was deeply devoted to her. When people asked him for certain favors through prayer, Vianney then asked St. Philomena for help, and when the miracles came—he deferred all praise to her! (What a clever and humble saint!)
Would YOU like to be able to credit Philomena with answered prayers, and develop a friendship with her? Learn more about this gentle intercessor in Fr. Paul O’Sullivan’s enriching book St. Philomena: The Wonder-Worker, where you will learn the story of her canonization, miracles wrought by her intercession, and much more! Available today at The Catholic Company!