The Facts of St. Philomena
In spite of much research, little is known of the life of Saint Philomena before the discovery of her celebrated tomb in the Catacombs of Pricilla at Rome. The only information we have about the life of the Saint is derived from the revelation that she herself made to the Servant of God, Sister Maria Luisa of Jesus, her fervent devotee, on August 3, 1833. Speaking to the holy sister while she was in prayer before a statue of her, the Saint recounted in detail all her life.
On this page, we lay out for you the known facts about our dear Saint including some historical perspectives.
May 24, 1802 – A TOMB IS DISCOVERED
To begin telling the story, let us paint a brief picture of the times: revolution, war, famine, atheism, and persecution had trodden Europe hard during the eighteenth century, and the icy Jansenist heresy had touched and withered the spiritual vigor of Catholics. The only spirit that flourished in such circumstances, it seemed, was the spirit of self-sufficiency. Men were well content to believe in nothing but their own abilities. They talked about the rights of man, meaning the right of any man to think as they did.
In these fierce days of persecution the primitive Christians were obliged to perform the sacred rites of their holy religion in the subterranean caverns (cryptœ) which extend on every side of the Eternal City, but clustered most thickly at the south-east corner, near the Appain way and the Ardeatine Way. These caverns, long believed to have been originally mere sand-pits, arenaria, out of which sand was dug for building purposes, are now proved beyond all doubt to have been constructed at great expense by noble and wealthy Christian families as places of burial. The Catacombs, as they are called, during three consecutive centuries were the places where the faithful had their temples and altars; where they met to pray in common and where the Pontiffs celebrated "The Gathering," or the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. They were in constant use also up to the cessation of persecution, and even to 410 A.D as the last resting-place of the saints and martyrs. In the terrible eruptions of the Goths and Lombards, many of these cemeteries, especially of the Via Salaria, were sacrilegiously plundered of their sacred treasures, and in part destroyed. When happier times ensued -- at the commencement of the eighth century and culminating with Pope St. Paschal -- all the relics of the Popes and principal martyrs and confessors which had hitherto lain in the Catacombs were removed for greater safety to the churches of Rome. As time went on the Catacombs were abandoned and in great part closed, and the knowledge of them was lost altogether, until they were accidentally re-discovered by some laborer in the year 1578. Even then they seem to have been left unguarded, and permission was given to the faithful to take away whatever relics they chose. But by a special providence of God the sacred tomb of St. Philomena was left unnoticed and undisturbed until it pleased Him in these later days to reveal her glory to the entire world.
However, the story begins quite plainly, though and perhaps a little pathetically. On May 24th, 1802, workers had just returned to the excavations begun earlier in a tufa pit in an underground cemetery dedicated to the family of Priscilla (the ancient Catacomb of Saint Priscilla), underneath the soil on the road that goes out of the Porta Salaria from Rome to Ancona.
Laboring in the darkness, a worker reached the center of the catacomb not far from the Greek Chapel, and very close to the largest luminaries where he was clearing loose sand which had fallen from one of the galleries on the upper level from a loculus when his pick struck a cemented surface.
Upon closer examination the concrete surface appeared to be some tiles which would normally enclose a loculus and, as previously instructed by Msgr. Ponzetti, Custodian of the Holy Relics, immediately ceased the excavation.
May 25, 1802 – THE TOMB IS REVEALED
Fr. Filippo Ludovici, Vatican overseer of the excavation was informed, and on the following day, May 25, 1802, Fr. Ludovici, accompanied by several observers, descended into the catacomb, and witnessed the full uncovering of the loculus, whereby with the removal of sand, three brick funeral tiles (the tiles were given to the Sanctuary on August 14, 1827 by Pope Leo XII) were revealed which bore an epitaph painted in red lead. Each tile measured approximately 50 cm long and having a total length of 1.74 cm (5 feet 9 inches).
The painted inscription on the three funeral tiles appeared as follows: tile one - LUMENA; tile two -- PAXTE; tile three -- CUM FI. The loculus was documented by Msgr. Ponzetti, Custodian of the Holy Relics, as bearing "FILUMENA,” an interpretation of the epitaph consistent with both the ancient custom of beginning inscriptions from the second tile and the logical etymological context. The result is a full reading of the epitaph as "PAX TECUM FILUMENA."
This funereal inscription presents the distinctive characteristics of apostolic times, rarely found in other cemeteries more recent than the Priscilla.
The name of "Filumena" is officially granted to the sacred remains examined on May 25, 1802, as recorded in the document issued by Ponzetti as Custodian of the Sacred Relics which released the remains of this Christian martyr to the Diocese of Nola on June 8, 1805:
8 Iunii 1805
Dono dedi Ven. Ecclesiae Archipresbyterali terrae Mugnano Dioecesis Nolanae corpus Sanctae Christi Martyris
Nominis proprii sic picti in tribus Tabulis laterariis cinabro
LUMENA PAXTE CUM FI
in pulverem et in fragmina redactum per me infrascriptum Custodem extractum cum vasculo vitreo fracto ex Coemeterio Priscillae Via Salaria Nova die 25 maii 1802, quod collocavi in capsula lignea charta colorata cooperta et consignavi Illmo Dominico Caesari pro Illmo et Rmo D. Bartholomaeo de Caesare Epo Potentino.
HYACINTHUS PONZETTI, Custos.
In addition to the inscription, so eloquent in its simplicity, the sepulchral tiles exhibited certain symbols, including tokens of martyrdom. There were an anchor, and arrow pointing upwards, a palm, under the palm another anchor, a javelin pointing upwards, another arrow pointing downwards, and a lily.
Students of Christian symbols generally agree on the interpretation of these figures on the tiles. The emblems breathe the language of faith and hope.
In the anchor there is a resemblance to the cross, the sign of faith in Christ. In both Greek and Roman antiquity there is mention of the sacred anchor. The anchor also connotes hope, refuge, and preservation of life. In the legend of the martyred Philomena there is a passage about the Roman emperor's wrath when that anchor he had fastened to the girl's neck wedged in the mud of the Tiber River. Other saints, including Pope Clement, suffered martyrdom by having an anchor tied to the neck and being dropped into the sea. Emperor Trajan as well as Diocletian decreed this form of brutality. The two arrows pointing in opposite directions signify torment similar to that which Diocletian exercised on St. Sebastian.
On the removal of the tiles in the cavity behind, were disclosed the remains of an interment, which competent authority pronounced to be those of a young girl from thirteen to fifteen years of age. The head was small and very much fractured, but the principal bones were entire. Surgeons ascertained the type of wounds inflicted. Physicians examined the skeleton -- its small unbroken bones fractured skull, eye sockets. The maiden had been lanced.
At the end of the loculus was a small glass vial or vase with half-broken sides of which were encrusted within with a dust of blackish color indicating blood clinging to glass fragments, and with the lower portion of the vial still intact and firmly embedded in the cement. It was undoubtedly blood which had been collected at the death of the martyr, according to the custom of the Christian during the persecutions, and placed with the remains as a testimonial to her death by martyrdom. As early as 1668 the Congregation of Indulgences and Relics had decided that the genuineness of a true relic of a martyr hinged somewhat on the finding of the vial or vase filled with the martyr's blood. The same congregation renewed the decision in 1863.
This blood was loosened from the broken pieces of the vial to which it adhered, and was carefully placed in a crystal urn. Those present, among whom were men of great learning of the Court of Inquiry, were startled by a strange chemical reaction as these little particles of blood, as soon as they fell into the sun, glittered like burnished gold or silver, or shone like diamonds and precious jewels, or, again, were resplendent in all colors of the rainbow. The chemical change of the blood convinced the Church dignitaries that a new star had arisen among the blessed. Cardinal Ruffo Scilla, who renewed the seals on the new reliquary after the blood of the Saint, had been safeguarded in the crystal vial, and deposed in the authentication: "And we have seen her blood changed into several brilliant little precious stones of various colors; also into gold and silver."
This extraordinary phenomenon continues to the present day.
The precious remains were reverently placed in a wooden case, lined with silk and stuffed with fine cotton and transferred to the Custodia Generale, or treasury of sacred relics, where they remained there for three years.
AUGUST 10 1805 - TRANSFER OF THE RELICS TO THE SANCTUARY
The remains of Filumena departed from Rome on July 1, 1805 and arrived at Mugnano on August 10, 1805 where they have remained since the transferal.
In 1805, England was at war with France, because France had been intriguing with Ireland and Scotland, had attempted to invade England and had designs on the Indian Empire. Napoleon, who had been the Commander-in-Chief of the French Army which invaded and conquered Italy, was now Emperor of the French.
That summer, the Bishop-elect of Petenza went to Rome to be consecrated, and also to congratulate the Pope, Pius VII, on his return from France, on behalf of the King of Naples, the Spanish Don Carlos. He took with him as his chaplain, a holy missionary priest who was serving the parish of Mugnano north of Naples, and this priest's name was Don Francesco De Lucia. Don Francesco, a cultured and pious priest, was born at Mugnano del Cardinale on September 19, 1772. He completed his studies in the Congregation of the Most Blessed Sacrament of Lucera. Ordained priest on September 19, 1796, he opened in Naples a school of philosophy and literature. He quickly gained the esteem and affection of distinguished Neapolitan people in education circles. Amongst these there was the Venerable Jesuit Servant of God, Guiseppe Maria Pignatelli.
Don Francesco had a heavy heart. His parish was infected with revolutionary ideas, resentment against the authority of the Church, unbelief, and immorality. His secret hope was to get the Bishop to use his authority to get him the relics of a martyr -- a saint who would come back with him and help him with his parish, which only a saint could convert. He knew exactly what he wanted -- a virgin martyr whose name was known.
The Guardian of the Custodia Generale, which Don Francesco soon got permission to visit, was evidently taken by this devout and humble priest, and said he would help him to get what he wanted, and told him to choose among the relics in the Custodia. About the middle of May, Don Francesco was taken to the Treasure House of Relics, which was under the care of a worthy guardian, Monsignor Don Giacinto Ponzetti. There were those of thirteen martyrs, but only the names of three were known -- one was a child, one an adult and then there was 'Filumena.' He had wanted a virgin martyr from the first, but what was more, when he stood before the case containing Filumena's relics, he felt filled with spiritual joy, the heaviness of heart gone as though she had instantly taken it from him. This was undoubtedly the helper he wanted! The Guardian promised to arrange for him to have her. Imagine his disappointment, then, when the official reply came that bodies of martyrs whose names were known were so few, that such as were found must be kept for special churches or dioceses.
His sadness returned, redoubled. Rome is not the best place in which to spend the summer -- or at least it was not in those days, when the marshes of the Campagna had not been drained. And what with overwork and worry, and the heat, and the disappointment, Don Francesco lost his sleep, his appetite and his health. A friend offered him the relics of another and unnamed martyr to comfort him, but had got it into his head that it was Filumena or nobody who could and would convert his parish. And one night, when he found himself burning with fever and not a breath of cool air to bring him sleep, he promised desperately that if Filumena would make him sleep, he would take her for his patron and bring her to Mugnano by hook or crook. His fever left him; he fell into a refreshing sleep, and woke in the brilliant Roman morning in perfect health.
That decided it. Filumena wanted to come with him as much as he wanted to have her. This time he went to the newly consecrated Bishop, and asked him to use his influence. When the Bishop heard the story, he agreed that the little saint seemed to want to come to Mugnano, and he added his request to Don Francesco's, with the result that the Bishop could not be refused. The Guardian gladly acted on the permission he received to hand over the relics, saying that he felt sure Filumena wished to go to Mugnano and work miracles there.
Joyfully, the good Bishop and Don Francesco took possession of the precious casket, and determined to bring Filumena to Naples with many prayers and every honor, the casket to be put in front of the Episcopal carriage.
The cortege was due in the little town on Sunday, 10th August, and on the vigil, bells were rung joyously to announce the morrow's event. At dawn of day a messenger was sent by Don Francesco himself to proclaim that the sacred body was coming. Soon an unusual excitement reigned, and the crowd might be seen proceeding from all directions to meet and welcome it. The day was to be noted as a memorable one in the archives of Mugnano. More than forty priests in their richest vestments, the members of the various confraternities and representatives from the neighboring parishes went in procession with banners displayed. The road was strewn with olive branches and exquisite flowers. And when the body of the saint was in sight, all the bells were heard "sprinkling the air with holy sounds." choice music added its charms to the rejoicing; bombs and guns mingled their voice of thunder with the imposing concert; groups of young men and young girls united in singing hymns and canticles in their honor. After entering the town the cortege took fully two hours to reach the church of the Madonna del grazie. When it arrived the sacred body was deposited under a triumphal dias near the Gospel side of the high altar, and Solemn High Mass was sung.
Don Francesco Lucia, to give a solid and profound base to the devotion to the saint, founded the Association of the Children of Saint Philomena. He was the first rector of the sanctuary and most vigilant guardian of the holy remains of the saint. He dedicated his priestly life for the glory of God and for souls. After 41 years of untiring apostolate in the propagation of devotion to Saint Filumena in all the Kingdom of the Two Sicilys, acquiring the regard of cardinals and bishops, he rendered his great soul to God on April 9, 1847.
JANUARY 30, 1837 -- Pope Gegory XVI Confirmed The Feast of St. Philomena As The 11th Of August
For thirty years miracles continued to increase in number at Mugnano, and the glory of the Thaumaturga filled the Universe. Various appeals were addressed to the Holy See so that a feast-day might be established, and an Office and Mass permitted in her honor.
In 1835, Pauline Jaricot, Foundress of the great French lay social institution in aid of the missions, Proagation of the Faith, and also foundress of the Association of the Living Rosary, and of other good works, was close to death. She suffered from a heart disease which had affected her health for some years and had left her suffering from frequent heart attacks. She had been unable to walk for the previous year and a quarter. The slow deterioration was leading to death. Doctors had given up her case as hopeless.
Drawn by an irresistible attraction, she wanted to visit Rome and the Holy Father. When she arrived at Rome after a terrible journey, her state was such that she could not go to the Vatican, and it was the Holy Father who went to visit her in the convent of Trinita dei Monti. The young lady asked Gregory XVI if he would approve the cult of Saint Filumena, would she be cured by the saint.
"Surely, my child." replied the august Pontiff, "for that would indeed be a first class miracle" This miracle took place. On her return to Rome, the Sovereign Pontiff wanted Miss Jaricot to stay a full year there until all doubts about the completeness of the cure were quashed. Then, in a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, confirmed by the Pope on January 30th, 1837, the feast of Saint Philomena was established as the 11th of August.
Here is a brief account of the miracle:
Towards the evening of Saturday August 9th, 1835, vigil of the feast of the Translation of Saint Filumena, during the Solemn Vespers, a French lady was seen to arrive accompanied by her chaplain, a maid and a servant. These last two, with much trouble, lowered their mistress from the coach onto a chair, and carried her through the crowd to the foot of the altar of the Reliquary where she remained in prayer until the end of the function.
After 15 months of suffering, the lady was pallid, wasted and weak. Being in the final stages of heart disease, she resembled more a corpse than a live person!
The next day, the 10th, she was taken to the Sanctuary a number of times to participate in various Masses and to receive Holy Communion. She attended the Evening Office as she had on the Monday. Her sad state was observed by a number of doctors from Naples who had come for the feast-day celebrations.
Up until that evening she gave no sign of improvement though she later revealed that she had felt herself healed soon after Communion, but was afraid to announce it because of the commotion the people would make. However, after Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, when the people had left, she rose and walked back to her lodgings without help. She had truly been cured. When they quickly found out, the enthusiasm of the public was indescribable. At the second hour of the night, 9:30 p.m. in that season, the church bells pealed out, and the shouts of joy of the crowds replied. Miss Jaricot had to show herself to satisfy the wishes of the people.
Out of gratitude she took the haven of the daughters of Saint Filumena: The Little Sisters of Saint Philomena, and added to her name those of Philomena-Maria. The same gratitude brought her back to Mungano in 1839 for a four day visit. After cruel trials, borne with the resignation and serenity of the Saints, she entered into the sleep of the just on January 9, 1862. Her body rests in the Church of Saint Polycarp awaiting the honor of being raised to the altars. The process of her beatification has been under way for a number of years.
The exceptional quantity of miracles which resulted from the petitioning of the martyr invoked as 'Philomena," initially by the southern Italian faithful, and then shortly thereafter by peoples of various countries, has been officially documented in various ecclesiastical recordings. Both the extensive documentation from the St. Philomena Shrine at Our Lady of Grace Church in Mugnano, and the documentation for the beatification and canonization processes of John Vianney at Ars, record the remarkable quantity of miracles attributed to the intercession of St. Philomena, which included the miraculous cure of Vianney himself.
In 1833, Bishop Anselmo Basilici of the Diocese of Nepi and Sutri requested a feast and office in honor of St. Philomena from the Holy See, with the local ordinary from Nola having prepared a lesson for the breviary in her honor. The Basilici petition received the support of a significant number of Italian bishops, in spite of its unusual status due to the absence of reference to St. Philomena in any martyrology or in any other historical account. The loculus name, Filumena, and the ubiquitous miracles acquired through her intercession as testified by numerous Church authorities sufficed for many of the Italian hierarchy in substantiating the legitimacy of the petition. On September 6, 1834, the Congregation of Rites submitted to Pope Gregory XVI the formal request for the approval of the office and mass in honor of St. Philomena, virgin and martyr, due to the repeated request for this liturgical cult and veneration by several prelates.
On June 17, 1835, the Congregation of Rites also concluded positively to a documented miracle submitted by Bishop Basilici and other bishops and priests, which testified to a multiplication of bone dust derived from the sacred remains. In the dossier submitted to the Congregation, several bishops and clergy testified to the inexplicable multiplication of bone dust originating from a few grams ("one pinch"), which then provided bone dust for hundreds of reliquaries without the original amount experiencing any decrease in quantity. Other experiments were conducted with numerous Church and civil witnesses, only to observe and testify to the same phenomenon of multiplication.
On January 30, 1837, Gregory XVI issued a solemn pontifical decree confirming the rescript of the Congregation of Rites authorizing her public cultus and approving the office, Mass of the Common of a virgin and martyr with a proper fourth lesson at Matins in honor of St. Philomena, virgin and martyr on August 11. This papal approval of public liturgical devotion was first granted to the clergy of the Diocese of Nola, and later extended to other dioceses, including Rome itself. The fourth lesson officially inserted into the Breviary in liturgical honor of St. Philomena on August 11 acknowledges the finding of her remains in the Priscilla catacombs, her martyrdom status, the rapid spread of her extensive popular devotion amidst the faithful due to her miraculous intercession, and the permission of Gregory XVI to celebrate liturgically the office and mass in her honor (as here presented):
DIE XI AUGUSTI
IN FESTO S. PHILUMENAE
Virginis et Martyris
In II NOCTURNO – LECTIO IV
Inter cetera martyrum sepulcra, quae in coemeterio Priscillae ad viam Salariam reperiri solent, illud exstitit quo repositum fuerat sanctae Philumenae corpus, uti ex tumuli inscriptione, tribus laterculis apposita, perlegebatur. Licet vero inventa fuerit phiala sanguinis, et alia descripta conspicerentur martyrii insignia, dolendum tamen est res ab eadem gestas actaque ac genus martyrii quod ipsa fecit obscura perstitisse. Ceterum ubi primum sacrum hoc corpus, ex beneficentia Pii septimi initio pontificatus ejus acceptum, cultui fidelis populi propositum fuit Mugnani in Nolana dioecesi, ingens illico famae celebritas ac religio erga sanctam martyrem percrebuit, praesertim ob signa quae ejusdem praesidio accessisse undique ferebatur. Hinc factum est ut complurium antistitum cultorumque martyris postulationibus permotus Gregorius decimus sextus pontifex maximus, universa rei ratione mature perpensa, festum ejusdem cum Officio et Missa in memorata Nolana dioecesi et alibi agendum benigne permiserit.
C.M Episcop. Praenest. Card. PEDICINIUS;
S. R. E. Vice- C. S.R.C. Praef.;
V. PESCETELLI S. Fidei Promotor.
In sum, Pope Gregory XVI in a papal decree, granted official approbation of the liturgical cultus and, thereby, official ecclesiastical recognition of the sanctity of St. Philomena, virgin and martyr. The Pontiff, fully aware of the absence of any historical account of the martyr saint "Filumena," granted to her the privileges of public liturgical veneration based upon the foundation of the great quantity of miracles ecclesiastically documented and recognized as having occurred through her direct intercession.
The official positive decree of Gregory XVI in papal recognition of St. Philomena's status as deserving of liturgical cult reinforces the deeper truth that far more important than the historical account of Philomena's earthly life is the historical and documented account of her powerful intercession for the Church as sanctioned by God himself. Whoever this early Christian martyr is and whatever constitutes the particular circumstances of her life and death, God is pleased with prayers of petition offered in the name of "St. Philomena," to which He has responded generously to the Christian faithful in granting an abundance of heavenly favors.
The historical abundance of miracles attests to God's desire to encourage devotion to the person behind the name of Filumena, regardless of the absence of a recorded history of her earthly life. This primacy of importance of her actual intercession for the People of God in our own times, over the details of her earthly life in ancient times, is what the Pope and the Church confirmed in the raising of St. Philomena to the level of public liturgical veneration, the beginning of the process of her public recognition as saint and martyr.
Magisterial Decrees pertaining to Devotion to St. Philomena
From the liturgical approval of Gregory XVI to the papal decrees of St. Pius X, Nineteen acts of the Holy See in the course of five successive pontificates were issued in positive promotion of popular devotion to St. Philomena expressed in the form of elevations in rank of liturgical cultus, the erection of confraternities and archconfraternities, and the granting of plenary and partial indulgences.
Several acts of the Holy See particularly display the Magisterium's approval and encouragement of ecclesial devotion to this Christian saint and martyr. Beyond the elevation of the rank of the mass and office previously granted by Gregory XVI, Bl. Pius IX approved a proper mass and office dedicated to St. Philomena with the papal confirmation of the previously submitted decree, Etsi decimo on January 31, 1855, a significant liturgical elevation, even though her name was never entered into the Roman Martyrology. The granting of a proper mass and office to St. Philomena, which took place following the return of Bl. Pius IX from a papal pilgrimage to Mugnano during his forced exile from Rome, was an unprecedented act in honor of a Christian martyr known only by name and evidence of martyrdom. Bl. Pius IX also granted plenary and partial indulgences to devotions in honor of St. Philomena at the Sanctuary in Mugnano.
Pope Leo XIII granted papal approbation to the Cord of St. Philomena with several plenary indulgences in association with its wearing, and accorded the title and privilege of "archconfraternity" for the respective Philomenian devotion and work in France. Pope St. Pius X continued the papal succession of encouragement for public Church devotion by approving the extension of the Archconfraternity of St. Philomena to the universal Church.
Far more than one solitary papal act by Gregory XVI, the papal Magisterium has repeatedly encouraged the nature and growth of ecclesial devotion to St. Philomena, in official recognition of her status as a saint, in public liturgical and devotional sanctions which extended to the universal faith and life of the Church, and thereby manifesting official and essential liturgical and devotional characteristics of her status as a saint as defined by the Church.
St. John Vianney, beyond any other saint or blessed, manifested an expansive testimony of faith and documented witness toward the reality of St. Philomena and her profound intercessory efficacy. The Cure, as recorded in the canonization process, attributed all the miracles documented at Ars to have been effected through St. Philomena's intercession; repeatedly spoke of having received apparitions of St. Philomena; and directly attributed his own personal miraculous cure from grave illness to her intercession.
The testimony and cure of Ven. Pauline Jaricot through the intercession of the young martyr saint has been noted. St. Peter Julian Eymard was cured from serious illness after having been instructed by Vianney to pray a novena to St. Philomena. St. Peter Channel, the first Oceanian martyr, preached of St. Philomena and referred to her as his "auxiliary" in his missionary apostolate.
Bl. Damien de Veuster dedicated his first chapel in Molokai to the young saint. Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat consistently invoked Philomena during difficulties in the establishment of her societies, and attributed the miraculous cure of a dying novice to her intercession.
Bl. Anna Maria Taigi, as related in her beatification proceedings, applied oil burned before the tomb of St. Philomena to the eye of her grandchild who had been medically diagnosed with an incurable pupil tear of the eye, and the eye was immediately healed. Other saints and blesseds who manifested veneration to St. Philomena include St. Magdalene of Canossa, Bl. Bartolo Longo, Bl. Annibale Da Messina, and Bl. Pius IX, who, shortly before his death, sent to Mugnano the chalice presented to him by the Belgian Federation of Catholic Circles on his golden Episcopal anniversary as one of several papal votive gifts sent in honor of and gratitude to St. Philomena.
The wisdom inherent in sanctity as personified in the lives of the aforementioned saints and blesseds provides a substantial confirmation of the decrees of the ordinary Magisterium which granted public ecclesiastical devotion to the martyr saint. Worthy of particular mention is the significant number of saints and blesseds who immediately participated in veneration of Philomena within the same half century of the discovery of her sacred remains, some before any certain statement concerning her public veneration was issued by Rome.
Note also the predominant importance of the supernatural intervention of miracles in the Church process of canonization. Without the documented miracles, an individual cause does not typically advance past the status of "Servant of God," even with extensive historical evidence of an earthly life of heroic virtue. The Church places its greatest emphasis for canonization, along with an essential historical basis, upon God's witness to the sanctity of the candidate through the manifestation of miraculous intercession by the person. It was therefore most appropriate for Gregory XVI to give far greater importance to the miracles documented to the intercession of Philomena, rather than to the history of her earthly existence beyond the Church approved criteria of historically establishing her martyrdom. The present inquiry into the case of St. Philomena should follow the same criteria as those followed by Popes Gregory XVI, Bl. Pius IX, Leo XIII and St. Pius X.