Philomena, a Christian martyr
Philomena, a young roman martyr, made herself known after nearly seventeen centuries of silence.
Since the finding of her body the extraordinary presence of St. Philomena in the Church began. Since then every Pope has venerated her with his personal devotion and millions of Catholics have felt her beneficial influence. She has been a model of spiritual life for many Saints, Blessed and Venerable. Great devotion toward St. Philomena has spread all over the world and Pontiffs have granted the Saint the “Liturgical Cult” with Mass and its own Office.
St. Philomena’s mortal remains were discovered in 1802 in Rome in a catacomb belonging to Priscilla. There are no biographic records of St. Philomena. Therefore, the first records about the Saint are the ones that start with the finding of her tomb in Priscilla’s catacombs, to the translation of her body to Mugnano del Cardinale, the beginning of her providential influence in Church life.
On the three stones that sealed the tomb, were the inscriptions:
“LUMENA – PAX TE – CUM FI”
and the following symbols:
two anchors, three arrows, a palm, a lily
In 1805, Don Francesco De Lucia, a young priest of Mugnano del Cardinale of the Diocese of Nola, was in Rome. He nourished the wish of having the body of a “Saint Martyr and with a Name” to take to his oratory in Mugnano. Pius VII was moved and donated the body of St. Philomena.
On the first of July Bishop Bartolomeo De Cesare and Don Francesco left Rome with the Saint’s relics. They reached Naples on July 2, 1805.
Mons. Vincenzo Torrusio, Bishop of Nola, officially recognized the sacred relics, and then placed them in a private chapel.
Once the news spread, there was a massive rush of the faithful. To avoid disorder, the remains of St. Philomena were displayed for the first time to public veneration in the parish church of Sant’Angelo a Segno, where they remained for three days.
The sacred relics arrived in Mugnano the morning of August 10th and were placed in the Church of Our Lady of Grace. Since the wonders happening were many and the number of devotees kept increasing, a new Church of Our Lady of Grace was built in Mugnano. It contains a chapel where the sacred relics were translated on September 29, 1805, and where they still remain.
The “dear little saint” of the Curé d’Ars, as he called St Philomena, was also found a devout client in Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio). He called her the “little princess of Paradise,” and to those who dared question her existence, he replied that doubts were the fruit of the demon. Padre Pio said, “You can say that she was not called Philomena — but this saint has worked miracles, and it was not the name that did them!”
To this day, Saint Philomena intercedes for many souls and the numerous faithful who visit her shrine to pray before her relics. She is considered the patroness and protectress of newlyweds; and she has often given the joy of motherhood to women who had been sterile.
Although not all doctors could agree on Gemma di Giorgi’s medical condition, these facts can definitely be established:
- Gemma di Giorgi was born with a severe congenital eye defect, absence of pupils.
- Before Gemma had contact with Padre Pio, her vision was either quite deficient or completely non-existent.
- Afterwards, although the physical structure of the eye remained unchanged, Gemma could see normally – although it was officially classified as legal blindness.
"Stigmata are not like ordinary wounds or injuries, they do not heal."
Padre Pio, the flying saint and the American pilots
Several pilots from the British and American Air Force, of different nationalities and religions, who during the Second World War were in the area around Bari on missions, became witnesses to something unusual. As they passed through the Gargano region near San Giovanni Rotondo, they saw a ‘monk’ in the sky forbidding them to drop bombs there.
Foggia and Apúlia were bombed on several occasions, but in the San Giovanni Rotondo area, where Padre Pio lived, a bomb never fell. A witness to this was the General of the Italian Air Force, Bernardo Rossini, who at the time was part of the Air Command along with the Allied Forces.
General Rossini told me that there was talk among the military of a ‘monk’ appearing in the sky and causing the planes to retreat. Many laughed and did not believe these stories, but because this was repeated so many times and always with different pilots, the general decided to intervene personally : he took command of a squadron of bombers to destroy a German ammunition depot located in the middle of San Giovanni Rotunda.
Everyone was very curious about the results of the operation. On their return, they went at once to find the general, who, astonished, said that as soon as he arrived at the place both he and his pilots saw the “monk figure” in the sky with raised hands; the bombs were released by themselves and fell in a forest; and the planes were turned around without the pilots doing anything.
Everyone wondered who this “ghost” was, which even the airplanes obeyed. After hearing that in San Giovanni Rotondo there was a monk with stigmata who was considered a saint, the general thought that he might be the “monk” seen in the sky and he decided to investigate this as soon as possible. When the war was over, this was the first thing he did. Together with some pilots, he went to the Capuchin monastery and then came to the sacristy where he saw several brothers, among whom he immediately recognized the one who had stopped his plane.
Padre Pio came forward and put his hand on the shoulder and said, ‘So it was you who wanted to kill us all?’ The general knelt before Padre Pio, who addressed him in the Benevento dialect. However, the general was sure that the ‘monk’ had spoken to him in English. The two became friends and the general, who was a Protestant, converted to Catholicism”.