My dear friends in Saint Philomena,

What a joy this week has been, as I have been hosting a special pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of St. Philomena. This group is truly international with two pilgrims from the U.S., four from Northern Ireland and the rest from Scotland.

Listening to their stories and the recounting of their spiritual journeys was so inspirational for all of us. A mass at the Holy Altar of St. Philomena will be followed with a visit by the pilgrims to the Catacombs of St. Priscilla in Rome. This week is the annual celebration of the anniversary of the discovery of the relics of St. Philomena in those very catacombs.

We are also celebrating a very special first communion for Philomena LAST NAME. Philomena’s mother is from Rhode Island, U.S. and first visited the Sanctuary in 2007. This is where she prayed to our Little Saint to grant her desire to conceive a child. She promised Philomena that if she was able to have a child she would name this child in her honor. It has been our great delight to meet this beautiful young lady and to participate in her next step of our Catholic faith.

Following is the excerpt from my book relating the events of our discovery of St. Philomena which we celebrate this month.

In the nineteenth century, the figure of Philomena, a young roman martyr, spread and conquered hearts. Those seek her intercession grew rapidly after nearly seventeen centuries of silence. This can be attributed to various events which took place in that century. One significant factor is the French Revolution and the loss of Christianity in the European society. Also significant were religious movements of “The New Evangelization” with the formation of missionary congregations throughout Europe. These later spread throughout the world, from the Americas to the Far East.

Some of this renewal was attributed to the intercession of this new “young saint”, Saint Philomena, whose relics were transferred from Rome to Mugnano del Cardinale (Avellino), on August 10, 1805.

Many devotees came to trust in her protection. We remember especially Pauline Jaricot, the founder of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, and the Living Rosary; the young John Maria Mastai Ferretti, who will become Pope Pius IX and will be beatified; the humble priest John Marie Vianney, the Cure of Ars, singled out by St Pius X as the greatest proof for Saint Philomena. These people were all perfectly cured from their illnesses as a result in their faith in Saint Philomena. They would become important instruments of Divine Providence in the Life of the Church, and to the ends of the earth.

The “dies natalis”

The Latin term dies natalis, literally, the day of birth, signifies for us the day on which a saint leaves earthly life and is born into eternal life.

The earthly/natural life is the starting point for aspiring to the heavenly, supernatural life, which is possible by virtue of the life, death and resurrection of Christ. An earthly life spent observing the divine commandments leads one to eternal life. For a martyr, we can affirm what St. Ambrose wrote of the young martyr St. Agnes: “Martirem dixi, satis dixi”, which means: “having said martyr, I’ve said everything”.

There are no biographical records of Saint Philomena. Her life, for our purposes, begins with the finding of her body and marks the beginning of signs to her devotees. The first records about the Saint are those surrounding the finding of her tomb in Priscilla’s catacombs, the translation of her body to Mugnano del Cardinale and the beginning of her providential influence in the life of the Church.

If one attempts to write a resounding biography of Philomena, it has to be considered an inspired devotional work based on other martyrs of the early Christian period. Her arrival at Mugnano gave birth to a season of graces and miracles. These were confirmed by Pontifical documents, from Leo XII to Pius XI, and will assist in the spreading of her devotional cult. In this way the nineteenth century is enriched by yet another supernatural intervention that will strengthen the Life of the Church in the company of the martyrs and confessors.

Symbols on the tomb

On the three tiles that sealed the tomb, was the inscription
“LUMENA – PAX TE – CUM FI” and the following symbols:
* two anchors, * three arrows, * a palm , * a lily

The richness of the traditional meaning of these images is very striking. It is now certain that the first terracotta tile was installed in the wrong place, altering the correct inscription which is “PAX TECUM FILUMENA” meaning “Peace be with you Philomena.”

Finding of the body

The body of Saint Philomena was discovered on May 25, 1802, the second year of the pontificate of Pope Pius VII. On May 24, 1802, the excavators at the catacombs of Priscilla were working to rid the area from materials and rubble built up over the centuries and had reached its center. This was not far from the Greek Chapel, very close to the skylight. One of them, who remains unknown, was removing soil from one of the tunnels and hit some tiles which had sealed a funeral niche.

On these tiles, in a perfect state of preservation, could be seen a palm branch, one of the symbols of martyrdom.

Following instructions received by Monsignor Ponzetti, the worker stopped and went to report his finding to Fr. Filippo Ludovice, a second caretaker.

On May 25, 1802, Fr. Ludovice, accompanied by many witnesses, including another priest, went down in the catacombs. Under his supervision, the excavator kept digging, finding the funeral stone of a small tomb which looked like one of an adolescent.

It was sealed with three clay tiles on which were written: “LUMENA – PAX TE – CUM FI”. Also engraved were two anchors, three arrows, a palm and a flower. Also in the niche was a broken vial containing a blackish, dried up residue. The venerable relics were carefully wrapped in five layers and were placed in a duly authenticated wooden box. They were transferred with the usual formalities to the Treasury of Sacred Relics in Rome. The tiles were taken first to the College Massimo of the Jesuits in Rome and later to the Museum of Christian Antiquities in the Vatican.

These precious artifacts (the sacred body of our Roman martyr, the precious blood she shed for her love of Christ, and the tiles of the tomb) are presently enshrined within the walls of the 400-year old Sanctuary at Mugnano. The Altar of the Sacred Body of Saint Philomena is lit day and night by our benefactors who might not realize the importance of their contribution. Let me assure you that you keep the devotion to our Saint alive and you keep the lights of the sanctuary aglow each and every day.

Sending you a special Easter Blessing from the Altar of the Sacred Body of Saint Philomena

Msgr. Giovanni Braschi
Rector of the Sanctuary of Saint Philomena
Custodian of her Sacred Body

Support the Sanctuary of Saint Philomena

The Sanctuary of Saint Philomena is not a parish Church. We do not have parishioners who support this place of worship on a weekly basis. We are completely dependent on the love and generosity of you, the world-wide devotees, to keep the doors of the earthly home of Saint Philomena open.

We pray at the Sanctuary for the devotees of Saint Philomena to recognize and provide the means to pay our monthly utilities of gas and electricity. We also pray for the means to install a lift at the Sanctuary to enable physically challenged pilgrims to experience the entire home of their beloved Saint.

In order to ensure the Sanctuary is able to keep our doors open to you and to continue to offer God continual praise and to be the focal point through which our prayers are received by Saint Philomena and interceded for before God at the Sanctuary, you may donate in the following ways:

  1. Direct to the Sanctuary:
    1. By personal check payable to the "Sanctuary of Saint Philomena." For security reasons, please send your donation through registered or express mail to the Sanctuary's address at the bottom of this newsletter.
    2. Online - Go to our Support Page, Click Here
    3. By bank transfer to the Sanctuary’s Bank account: SANTUARIO SANTA FILOMENA, BANCA UNICREDIT MUGNANO DEL CARDINALE (30525), BANK ACCOUNT: n° 000400102946, SWIFT CODE: UNCRITM1E94, IBAN: IT18D0200875790000400102946
  2. U.S.A. Tax-Deductible Donations may be sent to the new non-profit set up in the United States:
    1. Online - Go to our Support Page, Click Here
    2. Postal mail donations can be made to: Saint Philomena Sanctuary Support Fund, Inc. P.O. Box 4114 Bergheim, Texas 78004, U.S.A.

Sanctuary of Saint Philomena
Piazza Umberto I
83027 Mugnano del Cardinale
Avellino, Italy
Tel: 0039 081 825 7204 Fax: 0039 081 511 2733
Rector, Msgr. Giovanni Braschi