Today the Church honors the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of our Blessed Mother’s principal feasts and a holy day of obligation. Jesus took up and received His Mother in the totality of her being, a joyous union of God-bearer and Son. The earliest accounts of this mystery are from the 5th or 6th century. In the thirteenth century, Albert the Great, St. Aquinas, and St. Bonaventure endorsed the teaching, which was then a pious belief. In 1950 Pope Pius XII issued the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus declaring “. . . for the glory of Almighty God, who poured his special affection upon the Virgin Mary for the honor of his Son . . . we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a revealed dogma that the immaculate Mother of God ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” Our Mother’s Assumption is honored as the fourth Glorious Mystery in the Holy Rosary.
“’Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.’ The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians…’” (divineoffice.org)
Today the Church honors St. Maximilian Kolbe; a Polish Franciscan priest, international publisher of Marian devotion and 20th century martyr. At age 13, he entered a Franciscan minor seminary, becoming ordained at age 24. He held doctorates in theology and philosophy. In 1917, he led a small group of Franciscans to Rome to stand against anti-Catholic demonstrations and formed an association called the Militia Immaculata (M.I.). When he returned to Poland, the M.I. started producing faith periodicals; eventually growing into a publishing house of 650 friars – the largest religious house in the world. With Marian devotion as a focus to Christ, the M.I. began a daily newspaper, a monthly magazine, a radio station, and planned a movie studio. His circulation reached over a million readers and a second location was established in Nagasaki, Japan. In 1941, St. Maximilian was arrested and placed in a Nazi death camp. Shortly after, he died at Auschwitz, from a lethal injection, when he bartered his own life for a man’s who had a family. St. Maximilian is the patron saint of journalists, families, and the chemically addicted. (www.divineoffice.org)
From the Letters of Maximilian Mary Kolbe
Apostolic zeal for the salvation and sanctification of souls
The burning zeal for God’s glory that motivates you fills my heart with joy. It is sad for us to see in our own time that indifferentism in its many forms is spreading like an epidemic not only among the laity but also among religious. But God is worthy of glory beyond measure, and therefore it is of absolute and supreme importance to seek that glory with all the power of our feeble resources. Since we are mere creatures we can never return to him all that is his due. The most resplendent manifestation of God’s glory is the salvation of souls, whom Christ redeemed by shedding his blood. To work for the salvation and sanctification of as many souls as possible, therefore, is the preeminent purpose of the apostolic life. Let me, then, say a few words that may show the way toward achieving God’s glory and the sanctification of many souls.
God, who is all-knowing and all-wise, knows best what we should do to increase his glory. Through his representatives on earth he continually reveals his will to us; thus it is obedience and obedience alone that is the sure sign to us of the divine will. A superior may, it is true, make a mistake; but it is impossible for us to be mistaken in obeying a superior’s command. The only exception to this rule is the case of a superior commanding something that in even the slightest way would contravene God’s law. Such a superior would not be conveying God’s will.
God alone is infinitely wise, holy, merciful, our Lord, Creator, and Father; he is beginning and end, wisdom and power and love; he is all. Everything other than God has value to the degree that it is referred to him, the maker of all and our own redeemer, the final end of all things. It is he who, declaring his adorable will to us through his representatives on earth, draws us to himself and whose plan is to draw others to himself through us and to join us all to himself in an ever deepening love.
Look, then, at the high dignity that by God’s mercy belongs to our state in life. Obedience raises us beyond the limits of our littleness and puts us in harmony with God’s will. In boundless wisdom and care, his will guides us to act rightly. Holding fast to that will, which no creature can thwart, we are filled with unsurpassable strength.
Obedience is the one and the only way of wisdom and prudence for us to offer glory to God. If there were another, Christ would certainly have shown it to us by word and example. Scripture, however, summed up his entire life at Nazareth in the words: He was subject to them; Scripture set obedience as the theme of the rest of his life, repeatedly declaring that he came into the world to do his Father’s will. Let us love our loving Father with all our hearts. Let our obedience increase that love, above all when it requires us to surrender our own will. Jesus Christ crucified is our sublime guide toward growth in God’s love.
We will learn this lesson more quickly through the Immaculate Virgin, whom God has made the dispenser of his mercy. It is beyond all doubt that Mary’s will represents to us the will of God himself. By dedicating ourselves to her we become in her hands instruments of God’s mercy even as she was such an instrument in God’s hands. We should let ourselves be guided and led by Mary and rest quiet and secure in her hands. She will watch out for us, provide for us, answer our needs of body and spirit; she will dissolve all our difficulties and worries.
Little is known of her life, and the information was received by private revelation from her. Martyred at about age 14 in the early days of the Church.
In 1802 the remains of a young woman were found in the catacomb of Saint Priscilla on the Via Salaria. It was covered by stones, the symbols on which indicated that the body was a martyr named Saint Philomena. The bones were exhumed, cataloged, and effectively forgotten since there was so little known about the person.
In 1805 Canon Francis de Lucia of Mugnano, Italy was in the Treasury of the Rare Collection of ChristianAntiquity (Treasury of Relics) in the Vatican. When he reached the relics of Saint Philomena he was suddenly struck with a spiritual joy, and requested that he be allowed to enshrine them in a chapel in Mugnano. After some disagreements, settled by the cure of Canon Francis following prayers to Philomena, he was allowed to translate the relics to Mugnano. Miracles began to be reported at the shrine including cures of cancer, healing of wounds, and the Miracle of Mugnano in which Venerable Pauline Jaricot was cured a severe heart ailment overnight. Philomena became the only person recognized as a Saint solely on the basis of miraculous intercession as nothing historical was known of her except her name and the evidence of her martyrdom.
Pope Leo XII granted permission for the erection of altars and churches in her honor. Pope Gregory XVI authorized her public veneration, and named her patroness of the Living Rosary. The cure of Pope Pius IX, while archbishop of Imola, was attributed to Philomena; in 1849, he named her patroness of the Children of Mary. Pope Leo XIII approved the Confraternity of Saint Philomena, and raised it to an Archconfraternity. Pope Pius X raised the Archconfraternity to a Universal Archconfraternity, and named Saint John Vianney its patron. Saint John Vianney himself called Philomena the New Light of the Church Militant, and had a strong and well-known devotion to her. Others with known devotion to her include Saint Anthony MaryClaret, Saint Euphrasia Pelletier, Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini, Saint John Nepomucene Neumann, Saint Madeline Sophie Barat, Saint Peter Chanel, Saint Peter Julian Eymard, Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, and Venerable Pauline Jaricot.
In 1802, the bones of a female between the ages of 13 and 15 were discovered in the catacomb of St. Priscilia. An inscription near her tomb read "Peace be with thee, Philomena", along with drawings of 2 anchors, 3 arrows and a palm. Near her bones was discovered a small glass vial, containing the remains of blood. Because it was a popular custom of the early martyrs to leave symbols and signs such as these, it was easily determined that St. Philomena was a virgin and a martyr. Her popularity soon became widespread, with her most memorable devotees being St. John Vianney, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, St. Peter Eymard, and St. Peter Chanel. After being miraculously cured, Ven. Pauline Jaricot insisted that Pope Gregory XVI begin an examination for the beatification of St. Philomena, who was to become known as the "wonder worker". After hundreds of other miraculous cures, she was beatified in 1837. St. Philomena, who the pope named as the Patroness of the Living Rosary and the Patroness of the Children of Mary, is the only person recognized as a saint solely on the basis of her powerful intercession, although pertinent revelations regarding her life have been recorded. Her relics are now preserved in Mugnano, Italy.
Biography Provided By: Santuario Santa Filomena
Saint Philomena - Virgin and Martyr
The figure of Philomena, young roman martyr, emerged 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:
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 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.
In Mugnano, the three stones that sealed St. Philomena's niche in Priscilla's catacombs, were solemnly displayed for public veneration of the faithful on August 4, 1827. Apart from the writing, what is striking is the richness of the symbols: two anchors, three arrows, a palm symbol of martyrdom, a flower. Externally, on the tomb of St. Philomena, there is the palm symbol of martyrdom and inside the glass vase with the blood, which, as we will see in the next chapters, has been subjected to the most rigorous exams.
St. Philomena has ascended to the glory of the Altars not for what we concretely know about her brief earthly existence but for the countless graces and miracles that God has lavished through her powerful intercession. That which is missing in the veneration of St. Philomena regarding historic records, is abundantly compensated by the richness and multiplicity of all the miracles performed thanks to her intercession from the day of the translation of her bones from Rome to Mugnano, up until now. Rightly, Pope Gregory XVI defined her the Thaumaturge of XIX century.
In the nineteenth century the figure of Philomena, young roman martyr, conquered hearts. The cult expanded rapidly. Many devotees trusted her protection and, of these, we remember Pauline Jaricot, founder of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, and the Living Rosary; the young John Maria Mastai Ferretti, who will become Pope with the name of Pius IX and will be beatified; the shy priest John Marie Vianney, the Cure of Ars, singled out by St Pius X as the guarantor of St. Philomena. They were all seriously ill and were perfectly cured from their illnesses as a result in their faith in St. Philomena.
The latin term dies natalis (day of birth) indicates the day in which the a saint moves from the earthly life to the eternal one. An earthly life spent observing the precepts of the divine commandments leads to eternal life. For a martyr, we can affirm what St. Ambrose wrote to the young martyr St. Agnes: Martirem dixi, satis dixi, which means: having said martyr, I've said everything.
Mons. Anselmo Basilici, Bishop of Sutri and Nepi, was a tireless promoter of the cult of St. Philomena. Mons. Basilici had received a few relics from Mugnano and wanted to divide them between the Churches of his Diocese. He wanted to please all the applicants, but he did not know how. At this point the relics prodigiously multiplied themselves. He also declared that he received requests about relics from Cardinals and Bishops to promote the devotion and that he managed to meet the demands of everybody. The on June 17, 1835 a division of the dust belonging to the sacred Body of St. Philomena was solemnly carried out by in front of many witnesses that confirmed the prodigy.
What amazes both the ordinary faithful and the diligent researcher about the Philomena phenomenon is realizing how fast the cult of St. Philomena is spreading all over the world. For about seventeen centuries her bones had remained in the oblivion of Priscilla's Catacombs in Rome. In a few years the devotion towards this young girl has spread in the whole world matching, and even exceeding, the devotion towards other martyrs venerated in the past.
Before the decree of the Congregation of Rites of 1961, St. Philomena was venerated and her figure was present in all the hagiography books. After 1961, not only was she removed from the liturgical calendar, but in the majority of hagiography books she was treated as a symbol for all legends. Therefore, just like the other obscured Saints, there were those who continued to venerate St. Philomena more than ever, while others, confused, fell by the wayside. If so many High Pontiffs have approved her cult, St. Philomena is a reality, and cannot be relegated into legend.
The importance of the cult of St. Philomena can be evinced not only from the official Church documents, but also from the personal devotions that Popes that have had towards our Martyr.
Nearly all the Popes, from 1802 to 1940, have shown a great veneration for St. Philomena. Some of them have visited the Sanctuary of the Saint when they were Cardinals of The Holy Roman Church. Pius IX, apart from having been miraculously cured by the Saint and spreading her devotion in the diocese of Imola of which he was Pastor, as a Pope he visited the Sanctuary in Mugnano to venerate the sacred body of Philomena the martyr. The devotion of the Popes toward our martyr was great, as shown by their recognitions, privileges and ex voto.
Distinguished and common faithful, devotees of St. Philomena.
Prayer to St. Philomena
Humbly kneeling before thy throne, O great and glorious Virgin, St. Philomena, I beseech thee to look favorably on the petitions I present to thee. My Patroness, St. Philomena, pray for me!
Glory be …
Overwhelmed with sorrow and distress, I have need of thee, great Saint. Heed my supplications and help me in my present tribulation. O glorious Saint, pray for me and help me!
Glory be …
Inconsolable in my grief and weighed down with so many trials, I turn trustingly to thee. O valiant Saint, beseech God to have compassion on me. My powerful advocate, pray for me and help me!
Glory be …
Courageous Martyr, well do I know that my grievous sins deserve God’s severe punishment. Good St. Philomena, beseech God to pardon me all my sins and to teach me the ways of His holy love. Illustrious Saint, be loved child of Jesus and Mary, pray for me and help me!
Glory be …
Gracious Saint, look graciously upon this house and bless the members of our family who devoutly honor thee. Wipe away our tears and smile benignly upon us, imparting the blessings of peace, hope, love, and good health to all of us. O Wonder-working Saint, pray for us and help us!
Glory be …
O Child of Wisdom, well thou knowest the graces of which I stand in need, so be with me at every moment of my life, but be with me especially at the hour of my death. Establish my soul in peace, protect me from danger, and permit me to enjoy thy sweet companionship here as well as in eternity. Amen.
All-powerful Saint, hear and help me!
Through the merits of thy cruel martyrdom, Saint Philomena, hear and help me. (3 times)
Litany of St. Philomena
(Composed by St. John Vianney)
Lord have mercy on us.
Christ have mercy on us.
Lord have mercy on us.
God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity one God, have mercy on us.
Response after each phrase - Pray for Us
Holy Mary, Queen of Virgins,
St. Philomena, filled with the most abundant graces from your very birth,
St. Philomena, faithful imitator of Mary,
St. Philomena, model of Virgins,
St. Philomena, temple of the most perfect humility,
St. Philomena, inflamed with zeal for the Glory of God,
St. Philomena, victim of the love of Jesus,
St. Philomena, example of strength and perseverance,
St. Philomena, invincible champion of chastity,
St. Philomena, mirror of the most heroic virtues,
St. Philomena, firm and intrepid in the face of torments,
St. Philomena, scourged like your Divine Spouse,
St. Philomena, pierced by a shower of arrows,
St. Philomena, consoled by the Mother of God, when in chains,
St. Philomena, cured miraculously in prison,
St. Philomena, comforted by angels in your torments,
St. Philomena, who preferred torments and death to the splendours of a throne,
St. Philomena, who converted the witnesses of your martyrdom,
St. Philomena, who wore out the fury of your executioners,
St. Philomena, protectress of the innocent,
St. Philomena, patron of youth,
St. Philomena, refuge of the unfortunate,
St. Philomena, health of the sick and the weak.
St. Philomena, new light of the church militant,
St. Philomena, who confounds the impiety of the world,
St. Philomena, who stimulates the faith and courage of the faithful,
St. Philomena, whose name is glorified in Heaven and feared in Hell,
St. Philomena, made illustrious by the most striking miracles,
St. Philomena, all powerful with God,
St Philomena, who reigns in Glory.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, spare us O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God Who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
V.) Pray for us, Great St. Philomena,
R.) That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray: We implore Thee, O Lord, by the intercession of Saint Philomena, Virgin and Martyr, who was ever most pleasing to Thy eyes by reason of her eminent purity and the practice of all the virtues, pardon us our sins and grant us all the graces we need (and name any special grace you may require). Amen.