A PRIVATE REVELATION OF THE LIFE OF ST. PHILOMENA
We shall now review the story reportedly made by the saint herself to a religious sister of Naples, Italy in the late 19th c.who had great devotion to her. It is recorded that the saint had already obtained for the nun special graces from Jesus. The good sister used to go, after Holy Communion, to pray before a statue of St. Philomena. One day, as she felt in her heart a greater desire to know better the extent of the saints sufferings, she heard a voice full of sweetness addressing to her the following words:
"My dear sister, it was the tenth of the month of August that I died in order to live. It was then that I entered triumphantly into heaven, where my divine Spouse put me in possession of those everlasting joys which cannot be comprehended by the understanding of man I am the daughter of a prince who governed a small state in Greece. My mother was also of royal blood; and as they were without children, and they both still idolaters, in order to obtain some, they used continually to offer to their false gods sacrifices and prayers.
A doctor from Rome, named Publius, now in Paradise, lived in the palace in the service of my father; he professed Christianity. Seeing the affliction of my parents, and moved at their blindness, and by the impulse of the Holy Ghost, he spoke to them of our faith, and even promised them posterity 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 promised them as the reward of their conversion. At the moment of my birth they gave me the name of Lumena, in allusion to the light of faith, of which I had been, as it were, the fruit. And on the day of my baptism they called me Filumena, or 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 carried me with them to Rome, in a journey that my father was obliged to make on the occasion of an unjust war with which the haughty Diocletian threatened him. I was then thirteen years old. Having arrived in the capital of the world, we three proceeded to the palace of the emperor, and were admitted to an audience. As soon as Decollation 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 he had ceased to speak, the emperor desired him to be no longer disturbed but that, banishing all fear, he should think only of living in happiness. 'I shall place at your disposal all the force of the empire, and shall ask in return 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 had returned to our own dwelling, my father and mother did all they could to induce me to yield to Diocletian' s wishes, and to theirs. 'What! I said to them, do you wish that for the love of a man I should break the promise I made two years since to Jesus Christ? My virginity belongs to Jesus! I can no longer dispose of it.' 'But you were then too young,' answered my father, 'to form such an engagement', and 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, and my father, not being able to make the emperor allow of the reasons he alleged, in order to disengage himself from the promise he had given, was obliged, by his order, to bring me into his presence.
I had to withstand for some moments beforehand a new attack from my father's anger and affection. 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 them fall at my knees, and say to me with tears in their eyes, 'My child, have pity on thy father, thy mother, thy country, our subjects.' No, no, I answered them; God and that virginity which I have vowed to Him, before everything; before you, before my country! My kingdom is heaven. My words plunged them into despair.
They brought me before the emperor, who on his part, did all in his power to win me; but the emperor's promises, his allurements, his threats, were equally useless. He then got into a violent fit of anger, and influenced by the devil, he had me cast into one of the prisons of his palace, where I was forthwith loaded with chains. Thinking that pain and shame would weaken the courage that my divine Spouse inspired me with, he came to see me every day. And then, after having my chains loosed, that I might take the small portion of bread and water, which I received as food, 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 the preludes to new tortures; but prayer supported me. I ceased not to recommend myself to Jesus and His most pure Mother. My captivity had lasted thirty-seven days, when, 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, thou shall leave this state of pain.' Such happy news made my heart beat with joy.
But as the Queen of angels had added that I should quit my prison, to sustain, in frightful torments a combat far more terrible than those preceding. I fell instantly from joy to the cruelest anguish. I thought it would kill me. 'Have courage, my child,' said Mary then to me; 'art thou unaware of the love of predilection that I bare to thee? The name, which thou received in baptism, is the pledge of it for the resemblance which it has to that of my Son and to mine. Thou art called Lumena, as thy Spouse is called Light, Star, Sun as I myself am called Aurora, Star, the Moon in the fullness of its brightness, and Sun. Fear not, I will aid thee. Now Nature whose weakness humbles thee, asserts its law. In the moment of combat, grace will come to lend thee its force, and thy angel, who was also mine, Gabriel, whose name expresses force, will come to thy aid. I will recommend thee especially to his care, as the well beloved among my children.' These words of the Queen of virgins gave me again courage, and the vision disappeared, leaving my prison filled with a celestial perfume.
"What she had announced to me was soon realized. Diocletian, despairing of bending me, took the resolution of having me publicly tortured, and the first torment to which he condemned me was to be scourged. 'Since she is not ashamed,' said he, 'to prefer, to an emperor like me, a malefactor, condemned by his own nation to an infamous death, she deserves that my justice shall treat her as he was treated.' He then ordered my clothes to be taken off, and that I should be tied to a column; and, in the presence of a great number of gentlemen of his court, he had me beaten with such violence, that my body, bathed in blood, appeared but one single wound.
The tyrant, perceiving that I was going to faint and die had me removed from his eyes, and dragged again to prison, where he believed I would breathe out my last sigh. But he was disappointed, as I was also in the delightful hope of going quickly to rejoin my Spouse, for two angels, shining with light, appeared to me, and pouring a health-giving balm upon my wounds, rendered me more vigorous than I had been before the torture.
The next morning the emperor was informed of it; he had me brought into his presence, viewed me with astonishment, and then sought to persuade me that I owed my cure to the Jupiter whom he adored. 'He desires positively,' said he, 'that you should be empress of Rome.' And joining to these seductive words promises of the greatest honors, and the most flattering caresses, he endeavored to complete the work of hell which he had begun. But the divine Spirit, to whom I am indebted for my constancy, filled me at the moment with so much light and knowledge, that to all the proofs which I gave of the solidity of our faith, neither Dioclesian nor any of his courtiers could give any answer whatever.
It was then that his frenzy came on anew, and he commanded me to be buried, with an anchor to my neck, in the waters of the Tiber. The order was executed, but God permitted that it should not succeed. At the moment in which I was precipitated into the river two angels came again to my succor. After having cut the rope that bound me to the anchor, while the anchor fell to the bottom of the Tiber, where it has remained till the present time, they transported me gently, in the view of an immense multitude, upon the banks of the river.
This miracle worked happy effects upon a great number of spectators, and they were converted to the faith. But Dioclesian, attributing it to secret magic, had me dragged through the streets of Rome, and then ordered that I should be shot in a shower of arrows. I was stuck all over with them; my blood flowed on all sides. Whereupon he commanded me, exhausted and dying, to be carried back to my dungeon. Heaven honored me with a new favor there. I fell into a sweet sleep, and I found myself, on awaking, perfectly cured.
Dioclesian, having learned of it, cried in a fit of rage, 'let her be pierced with sharp darts a second time, and let her die in that torture.' They hastened to obey him. The archers bent their bows, they gathered all their strength; but the arrows refused to obey their intentions. The emperor was present; he became enraged at the sight; he called me a magician, and, thinking that the action of fire could destroy the enchantment, he ordered the darts to be made red in a furnace, and directed a second time against me. It was done, indeed; but those darts, after having gone over a part of the space which they were to cross to come to me, took quite a contrary direction, and returned to strike those by whom they had been hurled. Six of the archers were killed by them whereupon several among them renounced paganism, and the people began to render public testimony to the power of the God that had protected me.
These murmurs and acclamations made the tyrant fear some more painful accident; he therefore hastened to terminate my days, by ordering my head to be cut off. Thus did my soul take flight toward my heavenly Spouse, who placed me, with the crown of virginity and the palm of martyrdom, in a distinguished rank among the elect, who partake of the enjoyment of his divine presence. The day that was so happy for me, and saw me enter into glory, was a Friday, and the hour of my death was the third after midday, (that is to say, the same hour that saw my divine master expire)."
Such is, according to this revelation, the history of the martyrdom of St. Philomena. The facts of which it contains have been verified simply by the countless miracles that have accompanied devotion to this little saint. One so greatly loved by our Lord Jesus for what she generously underwent for love of Him. But since it has not pleased God to leave any other trace of so great a love and heroism, by what other means than that of such a revelation did He will that the precious knowledge of her come to our age? To our age! This word includes many reflections. It is the age of pride, it is the age of incredulity, the age of wandering passion and reason which questions the very thoughts and conduct of God. For this age, the divine wisdom of Providence, could choose, in His infinite measure, no means more suited than this to confound the pride of unbelief and to give triumph to His cause.