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St. Philomena

Born: ~291
Died: ~304
FEast: Aug. 11th
Patron of:  
children, babies, youth



 Philomena is an interesting saint in that she was canonized not from her story or from primary or secondary sources, but from a discovery of a body and a vision from a nun.

In 1802, in catacombs in Rome, a section was found with the engraved words, "Peace be unto you, Philomena". The body of a young teenage girl was found along with a vial of blood and some tiles carved with an anchor, arrows, and ivy leaf. These signs indicated to the discoverers that the body may have been that of a martyr.

Then, several years later, Sister Maria Luisa de Gesu claimed to have had a vision of 13 year old Philomena coming to her and telling her of her life. She told her when she was born and when she died, and said that she had been the Christian daughter of a Greek King. When her father had gone to meet Roman Emperor Diocletian, however, he had brought Philomena and the Emperor wished to marry her.

Philomena refused, having decided she would dedicate her life to Jesus through singleness. Her refusal led to Diocletian's anger and subsequent torture. She was supposedly shot with arrows, drowned, and beaten, but none of the attempts were successful at killing her. When the arrows were fired, for example, six of them returned and shot their own archer instead, while the other archers converted to Christianity themselves. She was finally decapitated and killed.

In 1833, the Vatican approved the sister's story and vision, and, at the same time, a church that hade taken relics from the body began to experience many miracles. People who visited were healed, a statue mysteriously began to sweat, and devotion to her began to spread. Several famous saints and holy people had a strong devotion to St. Philomena, such as Sts. John Vianney, Damien of Molokai, John Neumann, and Madeleine Sophie Barat. Though historians and archaeologists are uncertain of the validity of the claims and the dating of the body that was found, Philomena, whether she was the one who owned the skeleton or not, has become a powerful intercessor.

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