||January 10, 291
||August 10, 304 (aged 13)
||Catholic Church Oriental Orthodoxy
||13 January 1837 Liturgically Canonized in an act of the Ordinary Papal Magisterium, Vatican City by Pope Gregory XVI
||Sanctuary of Saint Philomena in Mugnano del Cardinale
||Youth, palm of martyrdom, flower crown, orange or white robes, palm, arrows, anchor, sometimes a partially slit throat
||Children, youth, babies, infants, priests, lost causes, sterility, virgins, Children of Mary, The Universal Living Rosary Association, Sibonga, Cebu, Pulupandan, Negros Occidental
Saint Philomena was a young consecrated virgin whose remains were discovered on May 24–25, 1802, in the Catacomb of Priscilla. Three tiles enclosing the tomb bore an inscription, Pax Tecum Filumena (i.e. “Peace be unto you, Philomena”), that was taken to indicate that her name (in the Latin of the inscription) was Filumena, the English form of which is Philomena. Philomena is the patron saint of infants, babies, and youth. The remains were moved to Mugnano del Cardinale in 1805. There, they became the focus of widespread devotion; several miracles were credited to Philomena’s intercession, including the healing of Pauline Jaricot in 1835, which received wide publicity.
John Vianney attributed to her intercession the extraordinary cures that others attributed to himself. In 1833, a Neapolitan nun reported that Philomena had appeared in a vision to her, and had revealed that she was a Greek princess, martyred at 13 years of age by Diocletian, who was Roman Emperor from 284 to 305.
From 1837 to 1961, celebration of her liturgical feast was approved for some places, but was never included in the General Roman Calendar for universal use. The 1920 typical edition of the Roman Missal included a mention of her, under August 11, in the section headed Missae pro aliquibus locis (“Masses for some places”), with an indication that the Mass to be used in those places was one from the common of a virgin martyr, without any collect proper to the saint.
On May 24, 1802, in the Catacombs of Priscilla on the Via Salaria Nova, an inscribed loculus (space hollowed out of the rock) was found, and on the following day it was carefully examined and opened. The loculus was closed with three terracotta tiles, on which was the following inscription: lumena paxte cumfi. It was and is generally accepted that the tiles had not been positioned in the sequence of the words, and that the inscription originally read, with the leftmost tile placed on the right: pax tecum Filumena (“Peace with you, Philomena”). Within the loculus was found the skeleton of a female between thirteen and fifteen years old. Embedded in the cement was a small glass phial with vestiges of what was taken to be blood. In accordance with the assumptions of the time, the remains were taken to be those of a virgin martyr named Philomena. Her name means ‘daughter of light’. Philomena is the patron saint of infants, babies, and youth.
The belief that such vials were signs of the grave of a martyr was still held in 1863, when a December 10 decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites confirmed a decree of April 10, 1668. But this view has been rejected in practice since the investigations of Giovanni Battista De Rossi (1822–1894).
In 1805, Canon Francesco De Lucia of Mugnano del Cardinale requested relics for his oratory, and on 8 June obtained the remains discovered in May 1802 (reduced to dust and fragments). The relics arrived in Mugnano on August 10, and were placed in the Church of Our Lady of Grace. A new Church of Our Lady of Grace was built, containing a chapel where the sacred relics were moved on September 29, 1805.
In 1827, Pope Leo XII gave to the church in Mugnano del Cardinale the three inscribed terracotta slabs that had been taken from the tomb.
In his book It Is Time to Meet St Philomena, Mark Miravalle says that Pope Gregory XVI “liturgically canonized St. Philomena, in an act of the ordinary Papal Magisterium”. This contrasts with the usual view that canonization is an exercise of infallible magisterium declaring a truth that must be “definitively held”.
The Roman Martyrology contains the names of all the saints who have been formally canonized, since “with the canonization of a new saint, that person is officially listed in the catalogue of saints, or Martyrology”, and “as soon as the beatification or canonization event takes place, the person’s name is technically part of the Roman Martyrology”. It does not now contain and in fact never included the name of this Philomena, which can be seen to be absent in the 1856 edition published some twenty years after the 1837 decree.
Canonization is a ceremony of the highest solemnity, in which the Pope himself, invoking his supreme authority in the Catholic Church, declares that someone is a saint and inserts that person’s name in the catalogue of saints. This ceremony has never taken place with regard to Saint Philomena.