By Father Goodman M.S.C.

Imprimi Potest:
  Superior Provincialis.
Nihil Obstat:
  Censor Deputatus.
  Archiep., Syd.

March 9th, 1931.
The Church and her martyrs
Saint Philomena and her revelations
Christian Archaeology and Saint Philomena
The Wonderful miracles wrought through Saint Philomena's intercession
The declarations of the Roman Pontiffs on various occasions since the discovery of  Saint Philomena’s remains
The Cure of Ars and Saint Philomena.
How to honour Saint Philomena
Indulgences of the Cord of Saint Philomena
Beads of Saint Philomena
Novena in honour of Saint Philomena

The Church and her martyrs

It is peculiarly the function of the Holy Spirit to maintain within the Bride of Christ, the Catholic Church, that divine mark of holiness whereby she is to be forever recognisable both to angels and to men. Hence it is, that in every generation, we find saints who attract the homage of Christendom to that particular period in which their virtues served as an example-to that age of which they are the distinctive glory. The whole of the ecclesiastical year is, on its liturgical side, a glorious commemoration of the victories won by the true Church of God over her triple enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil. As day gives place to day, and festival to festival, there is unfolded to our wondering gaze an almost infinite array of heroism, virtue and sacrifice. The Seer of Patmos, John the Beloved, tells us that, in a vision that was vouchsafed to him, he beheld "a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, tribes and tongues, standing in the presence of the Throne," clothes in white robes, and bearing in their hands the emblem of victory wrested from the forces of Pride, Passion and Perdition. This awe-inspiring spectacle makes clear to us, that in the fight for supremacy over the serried ranks of her enemies. Holy Church has gone on from weakness to strength and from strength to victory, finally implanting the Standard of the Cross on the citadel of her conquered foes.

Delving into the archives of Catholicity as we are afforded ample and incontestable proof of this statement: for looking back over nineteen centuries as we see the Church in every land, from the days of the Roman Caesars to the days of Lenin, Calles and Stalin, braving and facing the storm of persecution, yet arising from amid the ruin crowned with the laurels of immortal victory. We find an almost countless multitude of men, women and children who have signalised themselves in the service of the Divine Master, and merited the glorious title of "Martyr."  Imbued with the courage of the Crucified, strong with His strength, armed with the weapons of prayer, and encased in the armor of Faith, these dauntless followers of Christ have braved the fury of Ignorance. Intolerance, and Modernism, so that they may extend the principles of the Divine Founder of Christianity -aye, and they reckoned not the cost, not even when it was paid in the fire-tried gold of their own life's blood. The records of the valiant conquests won by these champions of Jesus of Nazareth would fill volumes, multiplied by as many pages as there are days of fleeting time.

In contemplating the greatness of these white-robed, crimson-vested saints and martyrs of the Christian era, we feel drawn, nary, at times inspired to emulate their deeds of heroism. Do not our hearts burn within us when we consider the unexampled courage of these warriors of the Lord, and do we not rise above the narrow, lowly notions of mundane things to the magnificent realm of the External King, which extends backwards to Paradise, and forward to Eternity? When we meditate on the divine splendour of the Martyrs of Christ-on those virtues which were the sign and seal of their nobility in the Holy One of God, is it not our greatest glory and our proudest boast that we share with them the priceless heritage of the grand old Catholic Faith?  Viewed under this aspect how pregnant with realistic significance are the beautiful words of Tertullian, "Their wounds are conquering weapons and every scar is hidden by a crown; the more blood they shed from their own veins the more palms are given to them the more violent the blow rained upon them, the more are the victories they gained.

Because wicked men deny their kinship with the King of glory shall we dare think that the saints of God are unworthy of our affection Hidden in the dim religious light of our churches shall we not recognise the spirits of our illustrious brothers and sister in Christ, who shed their blood rather than deny His teaching? Or wandering in the hallowed precincts of the cloisters of our old monasteries, meandering amid the catacombs which are fraught amid the catacombs which fraught with the calm majesty of silent, eternal triumph, shall we not stop to ponder on those "deathless dead" who vindicated in their own lives and in their deaths the reality and stability of the Kingdom established by the Son?

It is an established law that the Church is not to enjoy any advantage that has not cost her the blood of her children. If she would uphold her rights, she must be prepared to shed her blood. Her Divine Spouse redeemed her with the ransom of His Precious  Blood; and it is His will that she, too, should purchase at the price of her own blood the graces and favours He grants her. It was by the blood of her martyred children that she extended her conquests beyond the limits of the Roman Empire. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity. "Their sacrifices secured for their Mother, the Church, the peace she enjoyed under the Roman Christian Emperors; they gained for her the victories she won over the infidel rulers of a later date. It appears, then, as if she must needs shed her blood for the confirmation of her authority, just as she had to give it freely and lavishly for the propagation of her doctrines. Hence, it is evident that the discipline, as well as the faith of the Church needs martyrs; and if, at times, the lives of some of the first martyrs of Christianity are buried in a mysterious obscurity, we may exclaim with St. Ambrose with St. Ambrose, "That eloquence is best which springs from blood, for blood is a voice of thunder re-echoing from earth to heaven."

St. Philomena and Her Revelations
St. Ambrose's statement seems to be in a very peculiar way applicable to the little Virgin Martyr of the Catacombs. St. Philomena previous to her glorious martyrdom or more correctly, previous to the finding of her relics in the Catacomb of St. Priscilla, little, indeed is known of her personal history. Before 1802, her name had found no place in solemn chant nor sacred story. The saint herself revealed the details of her life and martyrdom to three different persons. One of these was a saintly nun of Naples, who died in the odour of sanctity,  Mother Mary Louisa, Superior General of The Congregation of Our Lady of Dolores. Briefly the story of the little martyr is this: "Saint Philomena was the daughter of a Grecian King and the beloved spouse of Christ.  She was persecuted because she would not betray her Divine Spouse.  She was imprisoned, brutally scourged, and died a martyr in the midst of torments in her thirteenth year. She was of extreme loveliness and could have won an earthly crown by losing the friendship of Jesus, her Beloved. She preferred the jewel of virginity to the sceptre of regal power."

These revelations received the "Imprimatur" of the Holy Office in December, 1833, and this is a guarantee that they contain nothing contrary to the teaching of the Church. True, we are not bound to accept them as of faith; but the Church has tolerated these pious narratives, and we are within our rights in accepting them on their own merits if we find them helpful to devotion.

Some may object that these revelations regarding St. Philomena may be spurious. "In answer to this, much can be said," writes Father O'Sullivan in "Saint Philomena, the Wonder Worker."  "First of all, we will quote no less an authority than Saint Thomas of Aquin for the reasonableness of believing in pious narratives. This great light of the Church, distinguished as much for his consummate prudence as for his angelic intelligence, read, daily and with avidity, 'The Lives of the Fathers of the Desert,' by Cassian. So did Saint Dominic, and very many other great saints before him. Now this book contains very wonderful stories of the hermits and saints of the early Church, and so quaint are these recitals, and so at variance with the world's way of thinking, that nothing recounted of Saint Philomena exceeds them for strangeness. Yet in the reading of these stories the Angelic Doctor found the choicest food for meditation, derived from them his deepest consolation, and considered them a most powerful stimulus to sanctity. No one will dare to suggest that the Prince of Theologians, that light of the Church, the wisest of the Saints, was guilty of indiscretion or accepted lightly mere legends."

We are in good company, then, if we accept the legend of Saint Philomena, in the same light in which Saint Thomas of Aquin accepted the legends inter-woven with "The Lives of the Fathers of the Desert." However, we do not intend, in this booklet, to base on private revelations our study of Saint Philomena. We will, in due course, prove that the foundation of devotion to our little Saint rests on more authentic facts, namely:-

(a)  The Conclusions of Christian Archaeology
(b)  The Wonderful Miracles wrought through
      Her intercession.
(c)  The Declaration of the Roman Pontiffs on
            various occasions since the Discovery of
      her remains.
(d)   The direct and close friendship between
       The Cure of Ars and Saint Philomena.

Christian Archaeology and Saint Philomena

Recently the world was startled by the discovery of the famous Tomb of Tutankhamen by Mr. Carter and Lord Carnarvon in the land of the Purple East. The body of this Pharaoh was taken from the beautiful sarcophagus where it had been laid to rest 3300  years ago; and, after a careful examination, the glories and martial feats of the dead monarch were unveiled and heralded to the four corners of the world. Men of intellect accepted, as authentic evidence, the verdict of archaeologists, and acknowledged that such a man as Tutankhamen was once a vital part of life's mighty drama in those dawning days of history. What happened along the banks of the historic Nile, in the Valley of the Ancient Kings of Egypt, where the sands of the desert are revealing their treasures and their buried dynasties, is happening along the banks of the Tiber in the Rome of the Caesars and of the Sovereign Pontiffs.

The Church of God has her archaeologists who are ever delving into the mounds of antiquity and unearthing from the Catacombs rich and costly treasures bearing the impress of victories won-in the days of the Roman persecutions-for the King of Kings.

In these excavations we look back to the past, back into the days of Nero and Domitian, of Decius and Diocletian, and, behold the first born of the Bride of Christ, plucked from her bosom and hurled into the Tiber. Holy Church "sees these valiant Christians torn from her embrace, covered with the skins of wild beast and thrown to ravenous lions in the Coliseum. She sees them dragged from the Catacombs and handed over to an infuriated mob to be crucified, or stoned to death, or set on fire by night." She glories in the remembrance of these Champions of the Faith, and places before the minds of her children in every age the fortitude, courage and heroism displayed by these noble men, women, and children who lost their lives in time, to live with Christ in eternity.

"In the first ages of the Church, 'the raging of the Gentiles' against Christ was so terrible, that His followers were obliged to perform their sacred rites and ceremonies in the bowels of the earth. It was only by burrowing under the Eternal City that the Sacred Mysteries of Faith could be accomplished, or that Christian burial could be given to the dead. These caverns had their origin in the generosity of noble and wealthy Christians who gave their family grave or garden for the burial of a martyr, or generally, for the burial of all their brethren in the faith. They also served the purpose of meeting-places for the living in time of persecution. Here the early confessors of the faith met at the feet of the Vicar of Christ to sing the praises of God, or to assist at the Holy sacrifice of the Mass, in order to prepare for their conflict with wild beasts in the arena, or with the torturers in the Roman Forum. Thus it was that these caverns, or catacombs as they are called, became the treasure house wherein were laid to rest the relics of countless thousands of the Saints and Martyrs of the King of Kings."

When Italy was over-run by the Goths and Lombards, "many of these cemeteries," says Father Bowden of the Oratory, "were ransacked or rifled for hidden treasures, and in some instances many of the tombs were destroyed." During the space of four hundred and ten years after the preaching of Christianity, these cavern had been sanctified and hallowed by holy mysteries; they had been consecrated and rendered holy by the blood of the first children of the Infant Church; but now, dark days had dawned and they were besieged and plundered-the graves of the martyrs, and the catacombs which held their holy remains sank into decay. "The Shepherds of the Campagna even turned the sanctuaries of the illustrious dead of Christ into common sheep folds." True, indeed, for though, from the dawn of the eighth century till the reign of Paschal I. in the ninth century, the remains of the principal martyrs were transferred to the Churches of the City of the Tiber, yet we must admit the sad fact that the catacombs lost their attraction for the faithful. Further, we may state that knowledge of the subterranean caverns faded from the knowledge of each succeeding generation, until a catacomb on the Via Salaria was rediscovered, accidentally, in 1578.

"The Roman Pontiffs now became thoroughly alive," says Father O'Sullivan, in his treatise, 'Saint Philomena the Wonder Worker,' "to the vast importance of safeguarding them, and appointed trustworthy custodians to watch over the treasures still enclosed in their sacred precincts." The neglected and forgotten cemeteries of the veteran champions of Christ gradually revealed their hidden secrets as gallery after gallery was opened, and, at last, the remains of the child martyr, Saint Philomena, were discovered in the Catacomb of Saint Priscilla, on May the 25th, 1802. "The discovery of the tomb of the Virgin-Martyr was one of the great archaeological events of the last century, and the catacomb of Saint Priscilla, where the remains of the little saint were found, is, according to the Great Christian Archaeologist, De Rossi, one of the most ancient of the Roman Church."

For nearly seventeen centuries after her death, God, in His inscrutable designs, deferred revealing to the world the glory of Saint Philomena. "For seventeen centuries," says Henri Gheon, in his "Secret of the Cure of Ars," "She slept unknown of men. She prayed for them in Heaven, but they did not pray to her. Then several miles of underground tombs were swept away-but not her. Inviolate, inviolable: her earthly destiny might well have seemed to be over.  God was keeping her in reserve. Yet, seventeen hundred years, and the world, blindly groping, had need of her. Then God gave her the command to show herself to men."

"On the day following the discovery of the tomb in the Catacomb of Saint Priscilla, May the 26th, the learned custodian, Ludovici, found that the place of the interment was closed by three tiles of terra-cotta, bearing the inscription, "PAX TECUM FILUMENA" (P EACE BE WITH THEE Philomena). The tomb was opened, and, on scientific examination, revealed the  bones of a young girl between thirteen and fourteen years of age. Near the head was found a small vase, shattered into several fragments, the sides of which were covered with dried blood. This was, indeed, a pearl of great price-the blood of Saint Philomena. "There were also painted on the tiles three arrows (two pointing in opposite directions, one bearing a curved line-probably representative of fire), two anchors, a lily, and a palm branch-all symbols of peace, victory, virginity, immortality and martyrdom."

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