Tuesday, August 11, 2009

St. Philomena: Not Dumb to Pray to Her, After All

St. Philomena is unique among the saints: she is the only one who is venerated solely on account of the proliferation of miracles attributed to her intercession.

In 1802, a tomb containing the remains of a young girl and a glass vessel was discovered in the Catacombs of St. Priscilla in Rome. The tombstones -- found in jumbled order -- contained the inscription "PAX TECUM FILUMENA" and representations of arrows and a palm, a symbol of martyrdom. The glass vessel, thought to have contained the girl's blood, was also a sign of martyrdom. A cultus sprang up, rich in miracles, and the relics were translated to the Sanctuary of Mugnano del Cardinale in 1805. Public devotion to St. Philomena was first authorized by Pope Gregory XVI in 1837. One of her greatests devotees, largely responsible for spreading devotion to her, was the Cure of Ars himself, who built a chapel in her honor and attributed to her intercession many of the miracles otherwise attributed to his.

A century later, however, doubts sprang up about the autenticity of St. Philomena. An archaeologist examining her tomb came to the conclusion that the tombstones had been re-used, and that the tomb had been opened and then re-sealed. Despite the approbation of Philomena's cultus by a succession of Popes, she was removed from the liturgical calendar in 1961, during the reign of Bl. John XXIII. In 2001, she was omitted from the revised Roman Martyrology. However, she has not been stricken from the rolls of the saints, and popular devotion to her continues.

And is apparently justified by the evidence. In an attempt to resolve the Philomena controversy once and for all, Msgr. Giovanni Braschi, rector of the Sanctuary of Mugnano del Cardinale, commissioned a scientific study. The findings, which were announced in 2005, were, in sum:

-- St. Philomena's tombstones were not re-used.

-- St. Philomena's tomb actually dates back to the beginning of the third century, placing her earlier than was previously thought.

-- The glass vessel found in her tomb contained not only blood, but also a fragment of bone, indicating that the saint did indeed die a violent death.

Bottom line: the many popes who approved her cultus, the many saints and blesseds who witnessed to the power of her intercession, and the many faithful who had a devotion to her, were RIGHT.

Keep praying to St. Philomena!

H/T The Hermeneutic of Continuity via WDTPRS.

1 comment: