This novena to St. Philomena, printed below, pays tribute to a saint whose miracles speak volumes about her powerful intercession! Although little is known about her, tradition has it, from the private revelations given a Dominican nun by Saint Philomena herself in the 19th century, that she was killed at the age of 13 by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in the early 4th century when she would not give into his advances and become his wife. (Diocletian is most infamously known for his savage persecution of Christians.) This great saint’s patronage includes children, Children of Mary, priests, and desperate or lost causes!
We beseech Thee, O Lord, to grant us the pardon of our sins by the intercession of Saint Philomena, virgin and martyr, who was always pleasing in Thy sight by her eminent chastity and by the profession of every virtue. Amen. Illustrious virgin and martyr, Saint Philomena, behold me prostrate before the throne whereupon it has pleased the Most Holy Trinity to place thee. Full of confidence in thy protection, I entreat thee to intercede for me with God, from the heights of Heaven deign to cast a glance upon thy humble client! Spouse of Christ, sustain me in suffering, fortify me in temptation, protect me in the dangers surrounding me, obtain for me the graces necessary to me, and in particular (Here specify your request). Above all, assist me at the hour of my death. Saint Philomena, powerful with God, pray for us. Amen. O God, Most Holy Trinity, we thank Thee for the graces Thou didst bestow upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, and upon Thy handmaid Philomena, through whose intercession we implore Thy Mercy. Amen.
St. Philomena remained unknown until the remains of someone supposedly named Filumena (from the Latin inscription marking the tomb “Lumena Pax Te Cum Fi”; in English “Peace be with you, Philomena” ) were discovered in 1802 in the catacombs of St. Priscilla in Rome. Along with this inscription were the symbols of a lily, an anchor, and a lance, indications of both virginity and martyrdom, as shown in this depiction of her above.
St. Philomena’s story then becomes intriguing, indeed! In 1805, her relics were transferred from Rome to a chapel in the village of Mugnano de Cardinale, Italy and soon after various “favors, graces and even miracles” started occurring, including “cures of cancer and healing of wounds”.
Venerable Pauline-Marie Jaricot, foundress of the Association of the Living Rosary, was miraculously cured of a severe heart ailment in 1835 at St. Philomena’s shrine in Mungano. Soon afterwards, in 1837 Pope Gregory XVI, authorized public veneration of St. Philomena and canonized her. She became the only person the Church recognized as a saint solely on the basis of her intercessory miracles.
Pauline Jaricot was so impressed with her cure that she brought a relic of St. Philomena to her friend the famous Cure of Ars, Jean-Marie Vianney. He enshrined it in an altar in his church, which led to numerous miracles, conversions, and cures for those invoking St. Philomena’s assistance. He himself was blessed with mystical gifts, most famously, with the ability to read souls, much like another famous confessor, St. Padre Pio.
Jean-Marie Vianney nonetheless gave the credit for many miracles attributed to him to St. Philomena, saying with characteristic humility, “I do not work miracles.. I am but a poor ignorant man who once upon a time tended sheep. Address yourselves to St. Philomena; I have never asked anything through her without being answered.” He himself received apparitions from her and attributed his own cure from a grave illness in 1843 to her intercession.
And yet, the Cure wasn’t the only member of the clergy to sing her praises, not by any means! Pope Pius IX, who was himself cured of an illness by her intercession, made her “Patroness of the Children of Mary”, as mentioned earlier. Pope Leo XIII made two pilgrimages to her shrine before he became Pontiff and supported the Archconfraternity of St. Philomena, as did his successor, Pope Pius X.
Saints who were devoted to her included St. Peter Julian Eymard, St. Damien de Vesteur, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini and St. John Nepomucene Neumann, among others.
Although some scholars in the last century tried to discount that the relics discovered in 1802 were really those of St. Philomena, the Church wisely acknowledges her sainthood and sanctity nonetheless. As professor Mark Miraville put in this excellent, informative article “popular devotion to Saint Philomena, virgin and martyr, is presently alive and well amidst the People of God….The wisdom of past popes and saints recognized that the ‘history’ of Philomena’s powerful supernatural intercession for the Church was more important than the ‘history’ of her earthly life.” And he concludes, quite rightly “may the young virgin martyr, powerful with God, become, once again, a favored patroness of sanctity and purity, particularly for the youth of today.”