So I have this picture of Saint Philomena in my office. Strange, no? I mean she’s a pretty obscure saint. She just happened to be hanging in an office I moved into a few months ago and since Saint Damien’s parish in Molokai was named St. Philomena, I took the picture with me into my new office.
I’ve been really attracted to anchors lately. I find myself drawing them quite often and suddenly noticed that St. Philomena is carrying an anchor in the picture that’s in my office. So what is she doing with that? Was she a sailor? Was she… gulp… martyred with an anchor?
I asked Jennifer Lee who knows almost everything. She didn’t know that. I asked Wikipedia. The collective didn’t know.
After some searching around, here’s what I found:
Philomena – which means “daughter of light” – was a Greek princess who lived on the Island of Corfu during the fourth century. When Philomena was about 13 years old, her parents (who were of Greek royalty) were called to Rome because the Emperor Diocletian wanted to inflict war on the Island. Having seen Philomena’s beauty and having been impressed with her manners, Diocletian asked for her hand in marriage as a sort of peace treaty. Her parents accepted the offer, but because Philomena had vowed her virginity to God, she refused the marriage proposal.
In an attempt to get Philomena to marry the Emperor, her parents brought her to Diocletian, who tried to win her favor. But, she still refused his hand in marriage. As a result, Diocletian put her in jail and ordered her to be executed. While in jail, she had a vision of the Virgin Mary, who warned her about her fate, but promised heavenly glory and protection when she endured tortures.
From that point on, there is very little documented about Philomena’s life. What is known about her has been passed down through the centuries by word of mouth. Apparently, after nearly 40 days in prison, Philomena was tied to a post, flogged, and left to die in her jail cell. But angels appeared from heaven and healed her wounds with a miraculous balm. So, the Emperor then ordered to have her drowned with an anchor tied to her neck. That attempt to kill her was also unsuccessful – angels returned her back to dry land completely unharmed. Later, she was ordered to be killed by archers. But, as she was shot, the arrows returned upon the bowmen and killed them instead. Accused of witchcraft, Philomena was finally decapitated and died in Rome, Italy on August 10.
On May 24, 1802, the remains of a teenage girl was discovered in the Catacombs of Saint Priscilla at the Via Salaria in Rome. An inscription containing the Latin words “pax tecum filumena” (transcribed as “peace be with you, Philomena”) was on the tomb. Also cut on the tomb were emblems of a lily and palm (to indicate virginity and martyrdom); an anchor; scourge; and three arrows pointing in opposite directions (one with a curved line, signifying fire). Combined with the inscription, these symbols were thought to have symbolized the life of Philomena and the different tortures she endured in testimony of her faith and love of Jesus Christ.
Her feast day is August 11. She is the patron saint of children, youth, babies, infants, lost causes, sterility, and virgins.
That’s thanks to St. Philomena Parish in Peoria, IL for the quoted section above. St Philomena, pray for us!