July 1 through August 9 is the month of St. Philomena. The only saint to have her own 40 day “Lent” like Jesus’ prior to her feast day August 11, her month is observed through fasting on Friday and daily recitation of her chaplet http://www.rosaryandchaplets.com/chaplets/st_philomena_prayer.html in honor of her 40 day imprisonment prior to her martyrdom on August 10. The story of St. Philomena’s martyrdom comes to us through the approved visions and locutions of Mother Maria Luisa di Gesu.
“Dear Sister, August the tenth was the day of my rest, my triumph, my birth into Heaven, my entering into the possession of such eternal goods as the human mind cannot possibly imagine. That is why my Heavenly Spouse disposed, by His most high decrees that my coming to Mugnano should be on the day which had seen my coming to Heaven! He prepared so many circumstances which should make my arrival at Mugnano glorious and triumphant; giving joy to all the people, even though the priest who brought me had absolutely decided that my translation should take place on the fifth of the month very quietly in his own house. My omnipotent Spouse impeded him with so many obstacles that the priest, although he did all he could to carry out his plan, could not do so. And so it came about that the said translation was made on the tenth, the day of my feast in Heaven.”
“My dear sister, I am the daughter of a Prince who governed a small state in Greece. My mother was also of royal blood. My parents were without children. They were idolaters. They continually offered sacrifices and prayers to their false gods. A doctor from Rome, named Publius, lived in the palace in the service of m father. This doctor professed Christianity. Seeing the affliction of my parents, by the impulse of the Holy Spirit, he spoke to them of Christianity and promised to pray for them if they consented to receive Baptism. The grace which accompanied his words enlightened their understanding and triumphed over their will. They became Christians and obtained the long desired happiness that Publius had assured them as the reward of their conversion. At the moment of my birth, they gave me the name of “Lumina”, an allusion to the light of Faith of which I had been, as it were, the fruit. The day of my Baptism they called me “Philomena”. Daughter of Light, because on that day I was born to the Faith. The affection which my parents bore me was so great that they would have me always with them. It was on this account that they took me to Rome on a journey that my father was obliged to make on the occasion of an unjust war with which he was threatened by the haughty Diocletian. I was then thirteen years old. On our arrival in the capital of the world, we proceeded to the palace of the Emperor and were admitted for an audience. As soon as Diocletian saw me, his eyes were fixed upon me. He appeared to be prepossessed in this manner during the entire time that my father was stating with animated feelings everything that could serve for his defense. As soon as Father had ceased to speak, the Emperor desired him to be disturbed no longer, to banish all rear, to think only of living in happiness. These are the Emperor’s words, “I shall place at your disposal all the force of the Empire. I ask only one thing, that is the hand of your daughter.” My father dazzled with an honor he was far from expecting, willingly acceded on the spot to the proposal of the Emperor. When we returned to our own dwelling, Father and Mother did all they could to induce me to yield to Diocletian’s wishes and to theirs. I cried. “Do you wish that for the love of a man I should break the promise I have made to Jesus Christ? My virginity belongs to Him. I can no longer dispose of it.” “But you were young then, too young,” answered my father, “to have formed such an engagement.” He joined the most terrible threats to the command that he gave me to accept the hand of Diocletian. The grace of my God rendered me invincible. My father, not being able to make the Emperor relent, in order to disengage himself from the promise he had given, was obliged by Diocletian to bring me to the Imperial Chamber. I had to withstand for sometime beforehand a new attack from my father’s anger. My mother, uniting her efforts to his, endeavored to conquer my resolution. Caresses, threats, everything was employed to reduce me to compliance. At last I saw both of my parents fall at my knees and say to me with tears in their eyes, “My child, have pity on your father, your mother, your country, our country, our subjects.” “No, no!” I answered. “My virginity, which I have vowed to God, comes before everything, before you, before my country. My kingdom is Heaven.” My words plunged them into despair and they brought me before the Emperor who, on his part, did all in his power to win me. But his promises, his allurements, his threats, were equally useless. He then got into a violent fit of anger and, influenced by the devil, had me cast into one of the prisons of the palace, where I was loaded with chains. Thinking that pain and shame would weaken the courage with which my Divine Spouse inspired me, he came to see me every day. After several days, the Emperor issued an order for my chains to be loosed that I might take a small portion and bread and water. He renewed his attacks, some of which, if not for the grace of God, would have been fatal to purity. The defeats which he always experienced were for me to preludes to new tortures. Prayer supported me. I ceased not to recommend myself to Jesus and His most pure Mother. My captivity lasted thirty-seven days. Then, in the midst of a heavenly light I saw Mary holding her Divine Son in her arms. “My daughter.” She said to me, “three days more of prison and after forty days you shall leave this state of pain.” Such happy news renewed my courage to prepare for the frightful combat awaiting. The Queen of Heaven reminded me of the name I had received in Baptism saying, “You are Lumina, as your Spouse is called Light or Sun. Fear not, I will aid you. Now, nature, whose weakness asserts itself, is humbling you. In the moment of struggle, grace will come to you to lend its force. The angel who is mine also, Gabriel, whose name expresses force, will come to your succor. I will recommend you especially to his care.” The vision disappeared leaving m prison scented with a fragrance like incense. I experienced a joy out of his world. Something indefinable. What the Queen of Angels had prepared for me was soon experienced. Diocletian, despairing of bending me, decided upon public chastisement to offend my virtue. He condemned me to be stripped and scourged like the Spouse I preferred to him. These were his horrifying words, “Since she is not ashamed to prefer to an Emperor like me, as malefactor condemned to an infamous death by his own people, she deserves that my justice shall treat her as he was treated.” The prison guards hesitated to unclothe me entirely, but they did tie me to a column in the presence of the great men of the court. They lashed me with violence until I was bathed in blood. My whole body felt like one open wound but I did not faint. The tyrant had me dragged back to the dungeon expecting me to die. I hoped to join my heavenly Spouse. Two angels shining with light appeared to me in the darkness. They poured a soothing balm on my wounds, bestowing on me a vigor I did not have before the torture. When the Emperor was informed of the change that had come over me, he had me brought before him. He viewed me with a greedy desire and tried to persuade me that I owed my healing and regained vigor to Jupiter, another god, that he, the Emperor, had sent to me. He attempted to impress me with his belief that Jupiter desired me to be Empress of Rome. Joining to these seductive words promises of great honor, including the most flattering words. Diocletian tried to caress me. Fiendishly, he attempted to complete the work of Hell which he had begun. The Divine Spirit to whom I am indebted for constancy in preserving my purity seemed to fill me with light and knowledge. To all the proofs which I gave of the solidity of our Faith, neither Diocletian nor his own courtiers could find an answer. Then the frenzied Emperor dashed at me, commanding a guard to chain an anchor around my neck and bury me deep in the waters of the Tiber. The order was executed. I was cast into the water, but God sent to me two angels who unfastened the anchor. It fell into the river mud where it remains, no doubt, to the present time. The angels transported me gently in full view of the multitude upon the riverbank. I came back unharmed, not even wet, after being plunged with the heavy anchor. When a cry of joy rose from the watchers on the shore, and so many embraced Christianity by proclaiming their belief in my God, Diocletian attributed my preservation to secret magic. Then the Emperor had me dragged through the streets of Rome and shot with a shower of arrows. My blood flowed but I did not faint. Diocletian thought that I was dying and commanded the guards to carry me back to the dungeon. Heaven honored me with a new favor there. I fell into a sweet sleep. A second time the tyrant attempted to have me pierced with sharper darts. Again the archers bent their bows. The gathered all their strength but the arrows refused to second their intentions. The Emperor was present. In a rage, he called me a magician and, thinking that the action of the fire could destroy the enchantment, he ordered the darts to be made red in a furnace and directed against my heart. He was obeyed. But these darts, after having gone over a part of the space which they were to cross to come to me, took a quite contrary direction and returned to strike those by whom they had been hurled. Sic of the archers were killed by them. Several among the renounced paganism. The people began to render public testimony to the power of God that protected me. These murmurs and the acclamations infuriated the tyrant. He determined to hasten my death by piercing my neck with a lance. My soul took flight towards my heavenly Spouse who placed me with the crown of virginity and the palm of martyrdom in a distinguished place among the elect. The day that was so happy for me and saw me enter into glory was Friday, the third hour after midday, the same hour that saw my Divine Mater expire.” http://www.philomena.org/patroness.asp
This 13 year old princess saint is a beautiful illustration of what a saint is: a “little Christ”. She died the same hour and day of the week as her Divine Bridegroom and endured many of His torments. She has a “Lent” like unto His that gives a special double focus to its Friday fast: the Passion of Our Lord and the passion of His young imitator and bride. She also mirrors Our Lady in several ways (for example the chaplet prayer which closely resembles the Hail Mary). These similarities of hers are helpful in thinking more deeply on Our Lord and Lady and praying for the grace to become saints who reflect them as well as she does.
This post is dedicated to St. Maria Goretti.