Saint Philomena: A Saint for Saints, Part II

image found here

(By Cornelia Ferreira, Catholic Family News, February 2017 issue)  (Read Part I here)

The Miracles Presented for Canonization

“Then followed the two miracles that were used for Philomena’s canonization.  The first was the healing of a young Venetian woman, Giovanna Cescutti, of various incurable illnesses and extreme pain that often left her at death’s door.  On July 6, 1835, the end was imminent.  The parish priest and the family said a prayer to St. Philomena, which Giovanna was too weak to recite herself.  Later, thinking she had expired, the priest asked those present to recite three Our Fathers in honor of St. Philomena.  At its completion, proclaiming, “a miracle!,” the young woman got up, instantly cured of every illness.


“One of the witnesses was a knight of the King of Naples.  (The king was an important benefactor of the Sanctuary.)  This nobleman took the official ecclesiastical report of the miracle to Don Francesco in Mugnano.  On the same day, he encountered Monsignor Giovanni Mastai-Ferretti, Apostolic Nuncio to Naples and the future Pope Pius IX, who was bringing precious gifts from Pope Gregory XVI for the Shrine.  Msgr. Ferretti read the document and requested a copy so that he could publicize the event.  He was probably highly interested because a year earlier, his own assistant was healed on his deathbed when he invoked St. Philomena.

Pope Pius IX (found here)

“A month later occurred what is called “the great miracle of Mugnano”:  The astonishing healing of a pious young woman, Pauline Marie Jaricot, of Lyon, France.  It was the final impetus for Philomena’s canonization as Pope Gregory himself was a witness to what he declared a first-class miracle.

“Pauline’s strong missionary spirit had led her to establish the Association of the Living Rosary, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and other good works.  A priest friend gave her a relic of St. Philomena and Pauline determined to pray for her canonization.  But she was stricken with an extremely painful heart disease that required her to lie still in bed and often brought her close to death.  She also had a liver ailment that left her whole body so swollen that she could not even feed herself.  The doctors of Lyon considered her case hopeless.

“During what she called her “years of torture,” she and others prayed to Philomena, and this brought small moments of relief, allowing Pauline to leave her bed and be carried about in a chair.  But unable to walk for 15 months, and near death in 1835, she decided to go to Mugnano.  This was to pay homage to her benefactress, but not to seek healing.  She said she didn’t know if that would be advantageous for her – what a heroic example of Christian fortitude and detachment for today’s euthanizing society!

“She first ventured to Paray-le-Monial, which was near Lyon.  Having survived that trip, she set off for Rome to get the blessing of Pope Gregory.  At a high pass in the Alps, a beautiful boy approached and gave her a fragrant white rose, then disappeared as quickly as he had arrived.  The mountain guides did not know who he was and the flower could not have grown in that area.  It was seen as an emblem of the Living Rosary, the present she was about to give the Holy Father.

Pauline Marie Jaricot (found here)

“Exhausted by the difficult journey over the snow-covered Alps and the hot Italian plains, Pauline arrived in Rome almost unconscious.  She could not possibly visit the Pope.  So Gregory XVI, who was very pleased with her great work for the Church, came to see her in the convent where she was lodged.  She asked him if he would proceed with the cult of Philomena if she returned cured from Mugnano.  Gregory said he would, as that would be a miracle of the first class.  He thoroughly believed he would never see her again.

“Pauline arrived in Mugnano on Saturday, Aug. 8, in time for the celebration of the translation of Philomena’s body.  When the people learned who she was, and saw her unable to speak and looking “more like a corpse than a living person,” they assumed she was there for healing.  They were determined to see that happen.  They actually pounded on the tomb of the saint, threatening that they would stop praying to her if she did not cure Pauline.  Carried into the church in her chair, Pauline prayed for two days in front of the miraculous altar with the reliquary of St. Philomena until the feast day, Monday the 10th.

“That evening, at the moment of Benediction, she was completely cured.  She gave a long written testimony to the ecclesiastical and civil authorities of Mugnano.

“After she returned to Rome, the astounded Gregory XVI recognized the cure as a definite sign that God wanted the sanctity of the Virgin Martyr known to the world.  At his request, Pauline stayed a year in Rome so that her cure could be observed and authenticated.  On Jan. 13, 1837, Pope Gregory solemnly confirmed the decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites of Sept. 6, 1834.

“Philomena was now a canonized saint, with a feast day on Aug. 11, a Mass, and an Office in her honor.  This Papal approval of public liturgical devotion was given first to the diocese of Nola in which Mugnano is situated, then extended to other dioceses.  Furthermore, Pope Gregory named St. Philomena the “Great Wonder-Worker of the 19th Century” and the “Patroness of the Living Rosary.”

A Holy Curé and Papal Devotees

“Pauline Jaricot and her great friend, St. John Vianney, were the chief instruments chosen by God to spread devotion to St. Philomena.  When she returned to France, Pauline visited the holy Curé of Ars and gave him a relic of St. Philomena whilst recounting the story of her miraculous cure.  The Curé was moved to immediately erect a chapel in his church to honor the martyr and enshrine her relic in it.  This sanctuary became the scene of innumerable miracles.

“The Curé attributed all the documented miracles at Ars, including his own deathbed cure, to St. Philomena’s intercession.  She appeared several times to him and delighted in working miracles through the hands of this humble priest who spoke continuously about his ‘dear little saint.’  He called her the “New Light of the Church Militant.”  His greatest cross, however, was that the wonders in Ars were attributed to his holiness and prayers.  “I wish she would work her miracles away from here!” he said.  But this was one prayer of his she did not answer.  It was probably because thousands flocked to Ars, learned about devotion to her from him and then took it back to their own cities and countries.

“St. Philomena’s biographer, Fr. O’Sullivan, observed and himself experienced that wherever a statue of the saint is placed in a church, favors and graces in abundance flow on the priest and his flock.  “If only priests could [be] induced to place a statue of the saint in their churches,” and spread her devotion from the pulpit and confessional, he said, “their churches would soon become centers of devotion.”  “Many of her sanctuaries have had this simple beginning.” Homes in which her picture or statue is venerated will also experience her wonderful help.

“Here is another example of how a sanctuary was set up and what benefits flowed from it.  A man who had received a favor from the saint offered her image to the Church of St. Gervais in Paris.  Paris was in the midst of revolutionary ferment, but veneration of the image produced so many cures, conversions, and other favors that multitudes attended devotions and novenas.  As the Faith was being strengthened, the church was assailed by the Communist hordes of the Paris Commune in 1871, but St. Philomena miraculously protected it.

“The Communists unsuccessfully tried several times to destroy the church.  Finally, one night, under cover of darkness, a large band of revolutionaries started to sack the building.  But suddenly one of their number repented and spread the alarm and they were driven out.  They set fire to the neighborhood, but St. Gervais alone stood intact amid the conflagration.

“What a treasury of graces has been lost by the suppression of 1961!  This has led to the closing of several shrines, including Ars; St. Philomena’s disparagement as a “legend,” or her omission in books on the lives of the saints; and the consequent discontinuance of her veneration by many – all this after a long line of Popes venerated St. Philomena and approved public devotion to her!

“Ever since the finding of her remains, every Pope of an entire century loved and cherished her.  Furthermore, 19 acts of the Holy See in the course of five successive Pontificates were issued, promoting devotion to St. Philomena through several elevations in rank of her liturgical cult, the erection of Confraternities and Archconfraternities; and the granting of indulgences.  They are too numerous to list here.  Although she was not inserted into the Roman Martyrology, these magisterial actions officially recognized her as a saint, virgin, and martyr of the universal Church.

“We begin with Pope Pius VII.  St. Philomena was discovered in the second year of his Pontificate.  He donated her body to Mugnano.  Interestingly, he was taken prisoner and held outside Rome by Napoleonic forces for several years, finally returning on May 24, 1814, the anniversary of the finding of St. Philomena’s tomb.  He later established this day as the feast of Mary, Help of Christians.  God’s Providence thus showed St. Philomena is an important part of Our Blessed Mother’s help for the Church in our times as they were linked together on this day


(found here)

“Pope Leo XII many times expressed his admiration for the powers bestowed on Philomena by God.  He considered the facts relating to her irrefutable and granted permission for the erection of altars and churches in her honor.  In 1827 he donated the three tiles found on her tomb to the Sanctuary in Mugnano.  Don Francesco had founded an order of women called The Little Sisters of St. Philomena.  Under a strict rule, they devoted themselves to good works and lived a life of chastity within their own families.  Pope Leo was amazed at the great number of women devoted to this holy life and their good example.  Blessing them, he exclaimed: ‘This miracle is greater than any other miracle worked by the saint.  What! In an age of universal corruption, in a kingdom so lately subjected to so many vicissitudes of religion, these pure souls have arisen to tread publicly underfoot the world and the flesh!’

Pope Leo XII (found here)

“We have seen how Pope Gregory XVI raised St. Philomena to the altar.  He also named her patroness of the Living Rosary, saying, ‘Pray to St. Philomena.  Whatever you ask of her, she will obtain for you.’  By declaring her ‘the Great Wonder-Worker of the 19th century,’ and further elevating the rank of her feast, he effectively silenced the critics who had been ridiculing her cult in spite of the overwhelming evidence of her favor with God.  Through the hands of the future Pius IX, he donated a large gold and silver lamp to the Sanctuary of Mugnano.

“Blessed Pope Pius IX approved a proper Office and Mass dedicated to St. Philomena.  In the lections of her Office she is named a virgin, a martyr and a wonder-worker.  Whilst Archbishop, he was devoted to the saint and credited her with curing him when he was dangerously ill.  During his exile from Rome after becoming Pope, he made a pilgrimage to Mugnano and celebrated Mass at the miraculous altar that St. Philomena repaired, and he publicly venerated her relics.  He granted many indulgences to those who visit the shrine.  He named her patroness of the Children of Mary, protector of the Living Rosary, and the second patron of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.  He sent her his chalice, and on his deathbed he bequeathed his pectoral cross to her reliquary.

“As Cardinal, Pope Leo XIII made two pilgrimages to the Shrine.  When he was Pope, he gave it a valuable cross.  He approved the Confraternity of Saint Philomena, enriched it with indulgences, and raised it to an Archconfraternity.  He also approved the cord of St. Philomena and granted this devotion both plenary indulgence on the day it is first worn, and other plenary and partial indulgences.  This was the Pope who fought Freemasonry and wrote of its plan to corrupt society, especially youth, through ‘a boundless license of vice.’  The Cord of St. Philomena protects against all dangers and is known to cure the sick; but it is especially worn to safeguard the virtue of chastity.  St. Philomena is regarded as a powerful protectress of this virtue.  She bound herself by vow to it at the age of 11 and preserved her innocence at the sensuous Greek court and under the temptations and torture of the Roman Emperor.  The Curé of Ars himself blessed and distributed the Cord.

Shown is a bottle of St. Philomena’s oil, the St. Philomena chaplet, and a St. Philomena cord (found here)

“Pope St. Pius X was a great devotee of St. Philomena.  He raised the Archconfraternity to a Universal Archconfraternity and named St. John Vianney its patron.  He beatified the Curé of Ars in the centenary year of the translation of St. Philomena’s body to Mugnano.  To celebrate the centenary he sent a magnificent gold ring, which was placed on St. Philomena’s finger.  It was one of many costly gifts he gave the Shrine.  He advocated wearing St. Philomena’s Cord.  He verbally rebuked the modernist attacks on her, which we will see later.

Pope St. Pius X (found here)

“Besides Blessed Pius IX, St. Pius X, St. John Vianney and the Venerable Pauline Marie Jaricot, there is a long list of saints who were her ‘fervent clients.’

“Here are just a few names:

“St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, who carried a small statue of the saint on her travels;

“St. John Neumann, who completed the Church of St. Philomena in Pittsburgh.  He and Mother Cabrini were the two people most instrumental in promoting the Virgin Martyr in America;

“St. Peter Chanel, first martyr of Oceania, whose devotion stemmed from the Curé of Ars;

“St. Peter Julian Eymard, founder of the Congregation of the Most Blessed Sacrament, who was cured by St. Philomena and was ‘a very close friend’ of the Curé of Ars;

“St. Madeline Sophie Barat, founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart, who healed a surgery patient after invoking St. Philomena;

“Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, who obtained the healing of a granddaughter through the oil of St. Philomena;

“St. Damien of Molokai, who was preceded in the leper colony by St. Philomena in the form of a small wooden chapel built earlier under her name by a visiting religious brother.  Damien rebuilt and enlarged the structure, and with the help of his patroness turned the colony into a model of Christian civilization;

“St. Pio, for whom St. Philomena was ‘the Princess of Heaven.’  [Padre Pio?]

The New Diocletians

“Clearly, St. Philomena is a saint for saints, whose cult was promoted by the magisterial authority of the Supreme Pontiffs for a century.  The removal of her feast from the calendar on Feb. 14, 1961 (AAS 53, 30 January 1961, ‘Instructio,’ p. 168, no. 33) was done by the very same Congregation that approved her liturgical cult in the first place!  A footnote in the French translation by La Documention Catholique (, note 9) suggests spurious historical doubts regarding St. Philomena’s existence led to this action.

“Seemingly to correct ‘confusion’ in ‘the mainstream press,’ it recounts the discovery of St. Philomena and the tiles naming her.  However, it notes, she does not appear in the Roman Martyrology, but another three Philomenas do.  It states the red-stained vase in her tomb was ‘too quickly’ assumed to have contained the blood of a martyr, though it might actually have been wine.  It cites the declaration by archaeologist Marucchi in 1904 that the three slabs were deliberately placed in the wrong order, to warn that the person buried there was not Philomena, but some ‘obscure’ Christian (in other words, the tiles had been lifted from another tomb).  Finally, the note implies that St. Philomena was thrown out of the liturgical calendar to make the Protestants happy.  It quoted the world’s leading Anglican weekly, the Church Times, which wrote: ‘The decision to prefer historical science to superstitious credulity is a typical sign of the change in the Vatican’s mind.  This is a cause of satisfaction for the Churches who have been separated for a long time.’

‘Superstitious Credulity?’

“On the cusp of Vatican II’s ecumenical agenda, the Catholic Church evinced no disapproval of this blasphemous Protestant sneer that defamed six Popes, as well as high-ranking prelates, great saints, learned theologians, eminent archaeologists, doctors and scientists, and multitudes of Catholics of every rank and level of education worldwide.  It basically accused the pre-Vatican II Church of idolatry; whilst the Church’s silence was a harbinger of the Modernists’ iconoclastic attack on Tradition that would shortly follow.

“The erroneous theories recounted in the footnote go back to the early 1900s, when Catholic detractors, including Marucchi and a Jesuit priest, claimed St. Philomena was ‘neither a saint, nor a virgin, nor a martyr, nor a Philomena.’  These claims were thoroughly refuted in 1906 by the erudite Fr. Giuseppe Bonavenia, a Jesuit archaeologist of the Pontifical Gregorian University.  ‘He examined the question as an archaeologist, historian and theologian,’ said Fr. Paul O’Sullivan.  Marucchi’s contention that the tiles sealing the sarcophagus came from another tomb has also been refuted by modern science.  Using the most up-to-date procedures, a study in 1963 and another published in 2005 completely debunked his theory, thus proving that St. Philomena did indeed exist.  It turns out Marucchi had never examined the gravesite or tiles, but based his opinion on his own prejudices.

“In 1907, Pope St. Pius X called it ‘incredible’ that the detractors did not consider ‘the great argument in favor of the saint,’ namely, the Curé of Ars.  ‘…[T]hrough her intercession, he obtained innumerable graces and continual prodigies. …he recommended her constantly. …’  Regarding Marucchi’s false theory about the name, he said:

” ‘On the tomb is read the name Filumena.  If this is her name, or whether she had a different name, is of little importance.  What is important is that the soul which once vivified these holy remains was the pure and holy soul which the Church has declared to be the soul of a Virgin Martyr.  This soul was so loved by God, so pleasing to the Holy Spirit, that it has obtained the most magnificent graces for those who have recourse to her intercession.’

“Nevertheless, ignoring Pius X, the facts, and the solemn decrees of his predecessors, the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1911 threw its weight behind the modernist camp.  Its entry on St. Philomena supported the eminent 19th century Catholic archaeologist Giovanni Battista de Rossi (1822-1894), who cast doubt on the presence of a martyr’s blood in the glass ampoule.  It agreed with his disciple Horatius (Orazio) Marucchi (1852-1931) that the tiles were from another grave, (i.e., Philomena did not exist).  It concluded that the ampoule and the symbols on the tiles do not prove martyrdom.

“Pius X went to her defense again.  He definitively affirmed her existence and cult in 1912, in the brief raising the Archconfraternity to a Universal Archconfraternity:  Referring to the devotion it promotes, he said, ‘…to discredit the present decisions and declarations concerning St. Philomena as not being permanent, stable, valid and effective, necessary of obedience, and in full effect for all eternity, proceeds from an element that is null and void and without merit or authority.’

“As for the contents of the ampoule, the most modern scientific methods of testing in 2003 confirmed it as blood.

“The Catholic Encyclopedia also viciously attacked Don Francesco for a ‘purely fictitious and romantic account of the supposed martyrdom of St. Philomena,’ based on private revelations to a nun and on ‘an entirely fanciful and indefensible explanation of the allegorical paintings … found on the [three] slabs.’  But Don Francesco’s book, which described the translation of the relics and the authenticated miracles and facts (the private revelations took place later and were given an Imprimatur), was highly sought after, even by bishops, and translated into many languages.  It was the one that was miraculously multiplied.  It was highly regarded by Pope Leo XII, as was the holy priest himself by the Pope, clergy, royalty, and his own people.  This zealous guardian of St. Philomena’s relics was awarded the high honor of being buried in the Sanctuary of Mugnano, near the chapel of his ‘little saint.’  At his funeral, the church bells rang by themselves.

“Perhaps a contributing reason for the venom directed against the man who spread St. Philomena’s light to the world was his earlier book that commended the small patriots who, defending their Monarch and Church, defeated the Masonic forces of the Neapolitan Republic of 1799 in a battle for Mugnano on May 28, 1799.

“So, the pseudo-historical and archaeological reasons for suppressing the saint’s feast day have been thoroughly discredited.  That leaves what is possibly the actual reason – it helps the heresy of ecumenism by pleasing the Protestants.  But, in any case, the 1961 directive of the Congregation of Rites is, by decree of St. Pius X, null and void and without authority.

“Note that it did not forbid public devotion to the Saint, and in fact, Paul VI told an Indian bishop not to let the decree disturb him. ‘…[L]et devotion to St. Philomena continue as before,’ said Paul VI, thus confirming the existence of the saint.  But he didn’t overturn the directive; so the Modernists went to town.  New influential hagiographic accounts either relegate her to legend, disparage Don Francesco’s book, or omit her mention altogether.  This is seen even in the 1981 edition of Butler’s Lives of the Saints and the 2002 edition of The Book of Saints.  The latter also falsely claims that the Shrine in Mugnano has been dismantled, the cultus forbidden in 1961, and only private veneration continues!  Another example: A canon lawyer’s article, posted on ‘Canon Law Made Easy’ in 2013, states Philomena was never a saint even if she existed.  All such writing is null and void and lacks authority.

“Nevertheless several shrines closed or dropped public veneration, including St. Gervais and Ars.  Naturally, devotion to St. Philomena declined.  But to those who doubted her existence after 1961, St. Pio would reply: ‘It might well be that her name is not Philomena, but this saint has performed many miracles and it is not the name that did them.’

“Mother Mary Louisa, who received the revelation about St. Philomena’s life, once had a vision in which the saint asked Our Lady to grant favors for several persons.  Our Lady complied, saying, ‘To Philomena nothing is refused.’  As mentioned earlier, this vision was given an Imprimatur by the Holy Office.  One does not have to believe it, but the vast multitudes of people who have been helped by the saint verify Our Lady’s words: ‘To Philomena nothing is refused.’  Indeed, this alleged ‘legendary’ person still works her wonders for those who honor her.

“And how can we honor her?  First, by imitating her virtues of purity, humility, and obedience, following in her path to holiness (to martyrdom, if need be).  We can wear her Cord, say her Chaplet, use her blessed oil and medals, pray her Novena and other prayers, venerate her pictures and statues even in our own homes, and spread devotion to her.  One very good way to honor her is to join the Universal Living Rosary Association, headquartered in Texas.  Its members pray one assigned decade daily for the triumph of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, the honor of St. Philomena, and the intentions of all the members.  With 16-million members at present, each gets the graces of all their Rosaries every day!  You can join the Universal Archconfraternity.  Both the Living Rosary and the Archconfraternity are associated with the official Sanctuary of Mugnano.

” ‘Honoring St. Philomena we proclaim the power of God in the strength of His Martyrs, and His Infinite Goodness in the favors He concedes to the prayers of His saints.  This was the theology of the Holy Curé of Ars …,’ said Father Luis Petit, founder of the Universal Archconfraternity of Saint Philomena.

“God rewards even the slightest devotion towards his dear virgin martyr.  Here’s an example which shows the efficacy of wearing any object in her honor.  One day a beautiful statue of the saint arrived in a town in Italy.  Amongst those who gathered around it was a ragged little boy.  He snatched a bit of paper used to wrap the statue and hid it in his breast as a relic.  He later fell into a deep well.  He called on St. Philomena, who appeared, pulled him out of the water, and held him above it.  She then fastened around his waist a rope that was let down  an hour later.  His rescuers knew he could not have done it himself.  He described the saint minutely and said she was like a 13-year-old girl he saw in the crowd.  He was drenched but the paper in his breast was perfectly dry.

“Equally well, there are cases on record of God punishing those who dishonored the saint or derided her miracles.

“It is Mary, Help of Christians who restored to safety on May 24, 1814 the Pope during whose Pontificate St. Philomena [was brought] to light exactly 12 years earlier.  Our Lady thus confirmed St. Philomena as God’s powerful aid to salvation in an impious age mired in diabolical disorientation and the occult.  As the people were told during the whirlwind that terrified them when her relics were translated to Mugnano, she is terrible to the devils.

“St. Philomena is a saint for saints.  She will lead us to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who will secure our membership in that blessed company of latter-day saints predicted by St. Louis de Montfort.

Pax tecum Filumena.  Oro pro nobis.

[then follows a long biblio of chief sources]


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