I would like to introduce you to a young, early virgin-martyr, who has received extraordinary honor in the Church from popes, bishops, saints, and mystics. Pope Gregory XVI referred to her as the “wonder-worker” of the nineteenth century. Bl. Pope Pius IX declared her the “Patroness of the Children of Mary.” St. John Vianney attributed all of his miracles to her, stating, “I have never asked for anything through the intercession of my Little Saint without having been answered.” Bl. Anna Maria Taigi, the Roman “mother-mystic,” received through this saint the miraculous cure of her granddaughter, and entrusted all her children to her powerful intercession. And the popes of the nineteenth century showered this young saint with numerous plenary indulgences, and gifts such as papal rings and pectoral crosses.
It is time for you to meet St. Philomena, “Powerful with God,” in the words of Gregory XVI. As she was a “thaumaturga” of the nineteenth century, so she continues her wonder-working ways in our twenty-first century. Devotion to St. Philomena is spreading like a re-kindled wildfire throughout the universal Church today, with testimonies to her miraculous intercession being received by the international shrine of St. Philomena in Mugnano, Italy, from all parts of the world. St. Philomena wishes to exercise her remarkable power of intercession, precisely for you.
The Discovery of St. Philomena
On May 24, 1802, workers digging in the ancient Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome made an exciting discovery. While excavating near the “Greek chapel,” one of the earliest sections of the catacombs, they found a previously unrecorded grave, a type of grave hewn out of the rock called a loculus. Sensing the importance of what they had unearthed, and following the instruction given them by Msgr. Hyacinth Ponzetti, the Vatican Custodian of Holy Relics, work was immediately halted and Fr. Filippo Ludovici, the official Vatican overseer of all excavations, was informed.
The next day, May 25, 1802, Fr. Ludovici entered the catacombs with several other observers and officially documented the new grave. It was found to be sealed by three terra-cotta brick tiles arranged side by side. Engraved on the tiles were a palm branch, typically used to symbolize martyrdom, arrows, a lily, typically used to symbolize purity or virginity, and an anchor. On the tiles, painted in red from left to right was an inscription: the first tile read “LUMENA,” the second tile “PAXTE,” and the third read “CUMFI.” An anatomical examination of the bones found within led to the conclusion that the person entombed was a young girl approximately twelve to thirteen years old. Also found in the grave was a vial of dried blood, which was the early Church’s typical manner of indicating the grave of a martyr.
Msgr. Ponzetti, the Vatican custodian of holy relics, read the tiles according to the ancient custom of starting with the second tile, as “PAX TECUM FILUMENA,” or “Peace be with you, Filumena,” and officially rendered the young martyr’s name as “Filumena” (Philomena in English). Msgr. Ponzetti sought historical records for “Filumena” but none were found.
Not long after the discovery of the tomb, a humble parish priest, Fr. Francesco di Lucia from the small town of Mugnano near Naples, arrived in Rome seeking relics of a martyr to spiritually re-vitalize his parish which had grown “weak in virtue,” according to the pastor. Through the special assistance of di Lucia’s bishop-elect of Nola, Msgr. Bartolomeo de Caesare, wherein Mugnano was located, in 1805 Pope Pius VII consigned the sacred remains of “Filumena” to Fr. di Lucia for the people of Mugnano.
Fr. di Lucia took the relics from Rome back to Mugnano, and the ride home turned out to be rather unusual. At one point, the priest heard a knocking that came from the box containing the sacred remains of Filumena. As the knocking continued, Fr. di Lucia realized that the sacred remains were underneath the carriage, which was not a particularly reverent location for sacred relics. He decided that these holy remains should ride next to him in the carriage, and when they were put in this more reverential place, the knocking ceased for the remainder of the journey.
When Fr. di Lucia stopped over in Naples at the home of the Terrès family, there began the miracles of healing for which St. Philomena was soon