She’s no ordinary friend. She’s a saint. In the literal sense. Philomena is often referred to as “Powerful with God”. Her remains were discovered in the Roman Catacombs in 1802. They date back to the early 300s A.D., making her an early Christian who experienced the harsh persecutions of the Roman Empire. The study of her bones and symbols on her burial stones indicate that she was a young girl of about 13 years who was martyred. Her name is also spelled Filomena or Filumena, coming from Filia, meaning daughter and Luminis, meaning light. Her name then means “Daughter of Light”.
Philomena is a unique saint in the sense that little historical information exists about her. Yet the early Christians who buried her made sure to mark her burial site with symbols to indicate that she was a Virgin Martyr. Therefore, when her remains were discovered they were duly taken into safe storage. In 1805, a priest from Mugnano del Cardinale in Avellino, Italy succeeded in obtaining her remains for his church Our Lady of Grace. The story of how this happened is quite fascinating and even miraculous. After arriving at her destination on August 10, 1805, the miracles continued to the point that Rome eventually recognized her as a saint based on the magnitude of her miraculous intercessions on behalf of those seeking her help. Philomena’s remains are still housed at Our Lady of Grace, which is the international shrine and official center of devotion. See pictures below.
Saint Philomena is considered a heavenly wonder-worker, which simply means that when her friends on earth ask her to help with this or that need, she takes it to God and He often agrees. Some people don’t like the idea of asking a saint for help, and that’s fine because it certainly is not necessary. One can take their request or petition or need directly to God in prayer. I myself tend to do both. Sometimes I go it alone and sometimes I ask for help from someone, be they family and friends still here among the living or family and friends who walked the walk and are now in God’s very presence. I don’t see a problem with that. I just figure that Jesus gave us His example to work with others. I don’t think He necessarily needed the twelve apostles, but He chose to work with and through them and have His message and mission accomplished with their help and others on down throughout the centuries. Same goes for the saints. God can and does work through them now that they’re in heaven just as He worked through them when they were on earth. That’s how they became saints, by being holy and doing God’s work. In heaven, they keep doing His work. Being helpers, intercessors, friends to us who are still here. Who doesn’t want someone to “put in a good word” for them?
You can learn more about this wonderful saint here: http://philomena.us/
A few images of the Church of Our Lady of Grace in the town of Mugnano del Cardinale (Avellino, Italy) where St. Philomena’s remains are housed as well as an image of the Catacombs of St. Priscilla where her body was originally buried.