Page 13, 18th May 2007

18th May 2007
Page 13
Page 13, 18th May 2007 — I have had a devotion to St Philomena but a

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Locations: Rome


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I have had a devotion to St Philomena but a

friend made fun of this and told me that she did not really exist. Does it make any sense to pray to her?

In 1802 excavators in the catacomb of Priscilla discovered a tomb sealed with three terracotta slabs that read "LUMENA / PAX TE / CUM Fl". If the first slab is placed after the third, the inscription reads Pax return Filumena or "Peace be with you Philomena". The tomb contained the bones of a girl of about 12 or 13 years old buried with an ampulla of blood. Devotion to this young martyr grew in the 19th century as many miracles were worked through her intercession.

In 1906 Fr Marucchi suggested that the stones had been used more than once to seal different tombs and that therefore nobody could be sure whose bones were buried in the tomb except that they would not belong to anyone called Philomena. Unfortunately this scepticism about St Philomena made its way into the Catholic Encyclopaedia and to this day all that many people "know" about St Philomena is that she didn't exist. Marucchi's thesis was vigorously disputed at the time and has been ever since. Most recently, an international conference was held in Rome in 2005 to study the "Philomena controversy". A detailed scientc examination of the stones found that they had only been used to seal a tomb once, The manner in which they had been cut tends to confirm the thesis that they were re-ordered because the tomb opening was larger at one end.

Along with others, St John Vianney, St Julian Eymard, St Madeleine Sophie Barat, St Peter Chanel, St Anthony Mary Claret, and St Francis Xavier Cabrini all had particular devotion to St Philomena.

St Philomena is a challenge to that modem rationalism which denies the possibility of miracles and therefore will not allow miracles to be evidence of anything else. Nineteen acts of the Holy See during the pontificates of five popes were issued positively promoting popular devotion to St Philomena in response to the many and great miracles worked through her intercession. Her popularity is growing again today.

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