Sunday, July 31, 2011

Devotion to St. Philomena

In recent years, I have become acquainted with St. Philomena, a saint about whom I'd never heard much in all the time I was growing up in the Catholic Church. I don't know where the book in this photo came from; I can't remember if my husband ordered it or if it was a gift from one of the pro-life charities we support. In any case, this book sat on a shelf in our living room for years before I ever thought to pick it up. But one day, the lovely painting on its cover called out to me, and on a whim I decided to open it up and read it. I'm so glad I did! If you don't know the story of this amazing little saint, you might be interested in learning about her. I was going to try to write a short summary of St. Philomena's life and her path to sainthood, but I found a website that does it more beautifully and succinctly than I ever could. The address is if you'd like to click on the link and check it out. There is rather a lot of information on this site, but if you read the first five sections, "The Catacombs," "The Finding of the Body of St. Philomena," "The Marvels of Mugnano," "The Miraculous Image," and "Who Was St. Philomena?", you will get the major details of St. Philomena's extraordinary life and her miraculous powers.

Philomena has the distinction of being the only saint ever to be canonized on the basis of miracles alone, for at the time that her burial site was unearthed in 1802 (about sixteen centuries after her death at the hands of the Roman emperor Diocletian), there was absolutely no known historical record of her existence. But buried with her were some items that gave strong indications that she was a Christian virgin martyr; and then three different people were granted revelations about the unknown saint's life--and their three stories were exactly alike. She actually spoke to one nun, who was then ordered by her superiors to write down verbatim what Philomena had said. Between the miracles that were attributed to Philomena's intercession when no one really even knew who she was yet and these astounding revelations, there was evidence enough of sainthood to begin the canonization process. Although she only lived for 13 years, this little girl is a powerful saint indeed; in fact, her intercessory powers are such that Pope Gregory XVI gave her the title "Wonder Worker of the 19th Century." She is also called "Philomena, Powerful with God." St. Philomena is a patron of "hopeless" or "impossible" cases, like St. Jude; but she is also powerful in cases involving expectant mothers, sterility, marriage problems, and the conversion of sinners, to name a few--and actually, no request is too trivial or important to concern her!

In the above photo, there is also a CD about St. Philomena, which was given to me by my daughter-in-law's father. It includes a section where a nun is reading the actual words of St. Philomena as they were told to the nun who was one of the three people granted revelations about her life. It is extremely affecting to hear about Philomena's terrible sufferings and the courage with which she bore them, and to hear the comforting words that Our Blessed Mother spoke to her before she died. The nun who is speaking has such a sweet, soft voice--so like that of a 12- or 13-year-old girl--that one can imagine it is the young martyr herself telling her own story.

A special devotion to St. Philomena is the praying of a chaplet in her name. You begin by saying the Apostles' Creed; then you say three Our Fathers (one for each of the three Persons in the Trinity); then you say 13 Hail Marys (one for each of the years that Philomena lived); and finally, you say "St. Philomena, pray for us" and add any special request. I made myself a chaplet bracelet with three clear beads for the Our Fathers and 13 red beads(red to represent the blood shed by Philomena) for the Hail Marys. Like a Rosary bracelet, it helps me to keep track of the prayers if I want to say a chaplet when I'm on the go.

I hope you get to know this powerful little saint, who was a favorite of St. John Vianney. In this day and age, we can use all the help we can get!

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