Saint Philomena's history can only be related as it has been revealed by the Saint herself to three persons. These revelations were made known in answer to the prayers of many of her clients, who had asked the Saint to let them know who she was, and how she met her martydom.
According to these revelations St. Philomena was the daughter of a king of a small Grecian State. Her parents longed for a child, but all their sacrifices and prayers to their pagan gods were of no avail. A Roman doctor, seeing their distress, told them that if they embraced the Christian religion their prayers would be answered. Then, having studied our Holy Faith, they had the grace given them to embrace it, and in the following year a daughter was born to them, whom they named "Philomena" which means "Daughter of Light." This child made her First Communion when she was five years old, and at the age of eleven consecrated herself to Jesus Christ, to whom she had given the love of her innocent heart, by a vow of Chastity.
She was a beautiful girl, and idolized by her parents, who lavished every affection upon her. When Philomena had reached her thirteenth year, the Emperor of Rome threatened to declare an unjust war on their State. Hoping to make peace, her father went to Rome to see the Emperor, and as he could not bear his daughter out of his sight, he took her and the Queen with him.
When the Emperor Diocletian beheld the beautiful Princess, who with her mother was present at the interview between him and her father, he told the king not to trouble himself any further, as he would place all the forces of the Empire at his disposal on condition that he give him the hand of his fair daughter in marriage.
Only too pleased to hear of a way out of their trouble, Philomena's parents gladly accepted this offer, but the child herself refused on account of the vow she had made more than a year previously. Her parents did all in their power to persuade her to fall in with their wishes, but Philomena, assisted by her Divine Spouse, Who gave her the necessary strength, remained faithful to her resolution.
On hearing her decision the Emperor, thinking it was only a ruse on her father's part to break faith with him, desired that Philomena should be brought to him, that he might see what he could do to persuade her.
When the king, on going to fetch his daughter to take her to the Palace, found that her determination was as strong as ever, he and his wife fell down at her feet, begging her to change her mind, saying: "O, daughter, have pity on your parents. Have pity on your country. Have pity on our Kingdom." To which she replied: "My country and my Kingdom are Heaven. God and my Virginity must take precedence of all else."
Still, the Emperor's orders had to be obeyed, so they presented themselves at the Palace, where Diocletian did all in his power to persuade the young Princess to marry him, by the means of promises, entreaties, caresses, threats and dazzling offers, but all in vain. She told him she did not fear him. Then, overcome by anger, he ordered her to be bound hand and foot with heavy chains and thrown into the dungeon under the Imperial Palace, hoping by this means to compel her to marry him.
The Emperor visited her every day and repeated his persuasions. All she was allowed during her imprisonment was a little bread and water, the chains being removed while she partook of this simple repast.
For thirty-seven days these sufferings lasted, during which time this saintly child recommended herself continually to Jesus and His Most Holy Mother. On the thirty-seventh day Our Lady appeared to her bearing her Divine Son in her arms and surrounded by a brilliant light, and told her that she would remain three more days in the dungeon and then, on the fortieth day of her imprisonment, she would leave that place of sorrow.
Philomena was overjoyed at hearing this but the Blessed Mother's next words created a new fear in her heart, and she felt as if she were going through all the agony of dying, for she was told that when she left there she would undergo cruel torture for the love of Jesus Christ. Then the Queen of Heaven went on speaking words of comfort to the child, telling her that when the moment of trial came she would receive strength and grace. "Besides your Angel Guardian," said Our Lady, "you will have at your side the Archangel Gabriel. whose name signifies 'The Strength of the Lord.' When I was on earth, he was my protector. I will now send him to her who is my beloved daughter." After these reassuring words the vision disappeared, leaving a refreshing perfume lingering in the dungeon. Three days later, as the Mother of God had foretold, Philomena's tortures began; the Emperor ordered her to be tied to a pillar and cruelly scourged; then, seeing that she still remained faithful to her resolution, he had her thrown back into prison, there to die in agony. Philomena was looking forward to dying, so that she might rest in the bosom of her heavenly Spouse, but God sent two angels to comfort her, who, pouring heavenly balms on her terrible wounds, completely restored her to health. On hearing the news of her recovery the next morning, the Emperor was more than astonished. He then did all he could again to persuade her to give herself to him, saying that she owed her cure to Jupiter, who destined her for an imperial diadem. But being inspired by the Holy Ghost, Philomena once more resisted all his persuasions and rejected his offer. Then, more furious than ever, her persecutor ordered an iron anchor to be tied round her neck, and commanded that she should be thrown into the River Tiber, to be drowned and lost to sight; but once again the angels were sent to assist her, who, cutting the cord, carried her back to the bank without a drop of water having touched her clothes, much to the astonishment and admiration of the bystanders, several of whom were converted on seeing this miracle.
The Emperor, more blind and obstinate than Pharaoh, commanded that she should be dragged through Rome as a sorceress and shot with arrows. This done, she was for the second time cast dying into her prison cell, but instead of death, God sent her a health-giving sleep from which she awoke more beautiful than ever. Mad with rage, the tyrant ordered the torture to be repeated until death should claim her, but the arrows refused to leave tile bows of the archers. Diocletian, declaring her to be a witch, then ordered the arrows to be heated red-hot, but God once more worked a miracle for His little champion, and turned the arrows back on the executioners, a number of whom were killed. The last miracle brought about more conversions, and fearing still more serious consequences, the wicked Emperor ordered the child-martyr to be quickly beheaded. So at three o'clock on that Friday afternoon, August 10th, Philomena's soul rose glorious and triumphant into Heaven, where she received her reward, i.e., the Crown of Virginity, which she had won by so many victories.
The Holy See does not guarantee the authenticity of this revelation. But that it was made known to three persons, living far apart, and entirely unknown to each other, is indeed a strange coincidence. Also, it agrees with the emblems of martyrdom depicted on the tombstone of the Saint. The printing of it received the sanction of the Holy Office on December 21st, 1833, so that as it has not been condemned by the Church it can be accepted at its own worth and devotion continued to the little Wonder-Worker with restful minds.
The following are only a few of the miracles worked by St. Philomena, but they will go to show her great power with God on behalf of those who place their confidence in her:
A young English girl had been happily married to a Frenchman for six months when she contracted a serious illness, and the doctors declared it was utterly impossible for her to become a mother, as she so earnestly desired. Hearing of the wonderful cures which had been wrought at Mugnano, her husband took her thither, both hoping that she might be cured. But on reaching Naples the young wife became rapidly worse; still she did not despair, but shutting herself up one day in her own room she fell on her knees and besought St. Philomena to help her. She told the little Saint that as her condition was hopeless from a human point of view, she put all her confidence in her, and trusted that as she was so powerful in Heaven, and so good to all who sought her aid, she would cure her. She also promised that in spite of her sufferings she would visit the Saint at Mugnano the next day, and would ask her not only to restore her to health but to obtain, for her the happiness of being a mother, and that she would give her child the name of Philomena and would direct all the yearnings of its young heart to God.
She trustfully offered her prayer the next day at the famous Shrine of the Wonder-Worker, and a year later she returned a happy mother and in perfect health.
One morning, soon after the relics had been taken to Mugnano, a poor widow, during the Mass, asked Saint Philomena to cure her crippled boy; when suddenly at the Elevation of the Sacred Host, the boy, who previously could not even stand, jumped up and, running to the urn of the Saint, thanked her for his cure.
Still greater crowds assembled in the Church for the afternoon devotions after they had heard the report of the cure of the crippled boy. One poor child was brought who had lost his sight from small¡pox, and had been pronounced incurable by the doctors. His mother, dipping her fingers in the oil of the Saint's lamp, anointed his eyes with it, and immediately the child's sight was restored.
This new miracle brought about the conversion of a free-thinker, who gave large donations for the building of a church in the Saint's honor. In Holy Week of the year 1837, a young sculptor, having been deaf and dumb for nearly twenty years, and being cognizant of the miracles worked by St. Philomena, started a novena in her honor. On the night of Maundy Thursday he seemed to see the Saint smiling at him and surrounded by heavenly spirits. In his great joy he uttered a cry; he was cured. Soon afterwards he went to offer his thanksgiving to the little Wonder-Worker at her famous Shrine in Mugnano.
Giving a valuable ring as an ex voto offering to St. Philomena at her Sanctuary in Mugnano, a blind man was confident that she would cure him. He recovered the full use of his sight as soon as he reached home, although nothing had taken place in the Sanctuary.
Mrs. Margaret Jackson, a pious Irish lady was filled with anxiety when expecting her fifth child, as to her great sorrow her four previous children had been born dead. She confided her trouble to her sister, who was a Good Shepherd nun, and asked her to pray for her. The nun promised to do so, and invited her sister to join her in a novena to St. Philomena. The mother soon afterwards gave birth to a beautiful child which was full of life and strength, and gave it the name of Philomena, as she had promised.
Not only does St. Philomena cure bodily ills, but she is powerful in her intercession for the conversion of sinners. One man was persuaded by his friends to join in a public novena to the Saint. He had not frequented the Sacraments for thirty-four years, but on August 10th, the last day of the novena, he made his Confession and shortly afterwards received Holy Communion in thanksgiving at the altar of St. Philomena.
The wonders of St. Philomena spread to the most distant villages in Italy, the devotion becoming known all over the country, so much so that chapels and statues were raised in her honor; peasants had pictures of her, before which they kept lamps burning, and many children were named after her. Wherever she was honored a change was soon apparent in the moral conditions of the neighborhood, and numbers of miracles were 'worked.' In one church the wonders, conversions and cures were so numerous that it was said thet even in Mugnano nothing more wonderful had happened.
Concerning Saint Philomena, Saint John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, said: "My children, Saint Philomena has great power with God. Her virginity and generosity in embracing heroic martyrdom has rendered her so agreeable to God that He will never refuse anything that she asks for us."