This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

August 11 -- Feast of Saint Philomena

Saint Philomena
Philomena alone among all the saints has been canonized solely for her posthumous miracles -- nothing at all is known about her life.  In 1961, Pope John XXIII removed her feast from the general calendar with a boatload of other saints' feast days, but permitted continued devotions.  August 11, formerly her feast in the general Roman calendar, remains her feast here.

Roman catacomb
Philomena's bones were found in the catacomb of Saint Priscilla on the Via Salaria in Rome.  Stones placed on the body indicated that she was a martyr named Philomena, but nothing else was known about her.  Three years later, the Canon of Mugnano, Italy was in the Vatican's Treasury of Relics where he was suddenly overwhelmed by beatific bliss.  The Canon, Francis de Lucia, requested permission to bring Philomena back to his church and enshrine and venerate her.  Folks weren't so sure they wanted to go along with his plan.  

It would be a pretty tough thing to gauge the sincerity of a priest from the hinterlands who says he's moved by a saint that no one knows anything about.  On the other hand, all he's asking for is the bones of a saint that no one knows anything about.  Then again, what's he going to do with the bones?  Is he just trying to put his one-horse village (well, fewer than 3,000 people, anyway) on the map?

There's no telling what she really looked like. 
If there's one thing that is more abundant than money at the Vatican, it is relics.  And in truth, these were not the most prized relics in the treasury.  So in the end, they let him take them back to Mugnano, where he promptly placed them in a chapel and urged visitors to pray.

In 1835, a young French girl named Pauline Marie Jaricot, dying of a heart ailment, heard a message to "Go to Philomena."  En route to Mugnano, she paid a visit to Pope Gregory XVI, who whispered a prayer to her, asking her to repeat it when she got to heaven.  In reply, she asked if he would begin formal canonization of  Philomena if she (Pauline) stopped by the Vatican as she was walking home from Mugnano.  Recognizing that the young girl was a death's door, he readily agreed.

Pope Gregory XVI
She prayed before the relics of Philomena, got healed, and walked back to His Holiness.  Recognizing the miracle, Pope Gregory initiated formal canonization.  Reports of Philomena's healings were almost as common as the relics, statues, and medals of her.  Blind folks regained their sight, sickly infants recovered -- she even appeared to assist at an especially perilous and difficult birth. And most fabulous of all, a young man who tried to paint her portrait (even though he had never displayed any artistic ability or inclination) found that his brush seemed to move itself across the canvass, resulting in a splendid depiction.  His explanation was of course that she had painted her own portrait. 

I can understand His Holiness making that promise to a dying girl, especially in the rational nineteenth century.  If he was weighing his options, he either offered comfort to a sick girl (his job) or he got a new saint in the Canon (also his job). 


  1. HI
    Just as a note, removing a Saint from the Calendar - is not really 'booting them out' several Saints and several feast were taken off the calendar when it was revised...No one was De-Sainted. and as we Know from the words of Saint Pope Pius X Who said... regarding Saint Philomena,
    “To discredit the present decisions and declarations concerning St. Philomena as not being permanent, stable, valid and effective, necessary for obedience, and in full-effect for all eternity, proceeds from an element that is null and void and without merit or authority.”

  2. Mr. Major
    also The Catholic Tradition website...has great Saint Philomena information....

  3. James Merkel had originally posted a concern with the tone a remark in this post. I thanked him for his gentle suggestion and have since changed the flippant tone. I also had to remove a couple of comments since they no longer would make sense.

    Mr. Merkel suggested a website about Saint Philomena that would not work for me, but let me add this to his suggestion for sources.

  4. Mr Major
    I might have given you the wrong web address before
    the correct one is
    Thanks again