Everyone who loves someone wishes to know everything possible about them. They want to know about their origins, their family and social context, the life, the works and also how they faced death. We have very little information about martyrs of the past; we know though that they gave themselves completely to faith, even sacrificing their own lives. We can accept their martyrdom based on the symbols found on their tombs, however we know nothing or very little about their lives. On Philomena’s tombs, we discovered not only the palm of martyrdom but also other symbols like the arrows, the anchor and a flower, perhaps a lily.
Due to the lack of information, the archeologist theory, this in general recalls the following aspects:
Prodigious birth. With regard to Philomena, her mother was sterile and so her birth happened because of God’s intervention like it happened for other Prophets and Saints.
Complete choice of faith for female martyrs, choosing to consecrate to Christ as his bride. Philomena completely refused the proposal of marriage to the Emperor Diocletianus (284-305) because she already considered herself the mystic bride of Christ (a flower painted on her tomb was interpreted to be a lily). Martyrdom for Christ and the way it occurred. Based on the symbols of her tomb, her martyrdom is thought to have happened by decapitation after vain efforts to take her life with arrows and drowning. Due to the lack of information, the symbols discovered on a tomb are an extremely important testimony.
According to Sister Maria Luisa of Jesus in the vision of Saint Philomena during her appearance, the following is stated:
- The birth of Saint Philomena is a great gift of God to humanity.
- Philomena had donated her life to Christ completely.
- She shed her blood for him.
The rest of the story is an edifying ornament to the image of the Saint. It would then be a shame to cast shadows over the pious revelations of Sister Maria Luisa. An intelligent person is able to learn to interpret the profound message of the legends without formalism.
The pious vision of Sister Maria Luisa of Jesus
We here narrate the story of the vision of Sister Maria Luisa of Jesus (image 34) who reports what Saint Philomena related to her during her appearance regarding Philomena’s life and martyrdom (taken directly from Sister Maria Luisa’s biography from the historic writings of Don Frasnco De Lucia):
“My dear sister, I am the daughter of a Grecian King and my mother was of royal blood too. However, they did not have children and therefore prayed a lot and offered gifts to their false gods. A roman doctor named Publio lived with our family, now Saint in Heaven, but not a martyr. Touched by their blindness and grieved by the infertility of my poor mother, he was inspired by the Holy Ghost and spoke to them of our Faith, and promised them children if they received holy Baptism.”
Fig.34 – The mystic Sister Maria Luisa of Jesus was a great devotee of Saint Philomena. As requested by her spiritual director, she wrote the “Story of Philomena” as she appeared to her . These are absorbing and dramatic pages full of heroism and spirituality, to which no historical value can be attributed. The narration is, however, important. The 21st of December 1833 The Holy Office granted imprimatur of the “Revelations”, authorizing it to be published.
“His words were followed by the grace of God which enlightened their minds, and melted their hearts. They embraced Christianity and soon after my mother gave birth to me on the 10th of January. I was named Lumena, because I was conceived and born in the Faith, to which my parents had become greatly devoted. I was named Filumena, daughter of light, which enlightened my soul with the grace when I received at Baptism. Grace was also showered on those who wrote my book in Mugnano – also my sepulchral monument – they were not aware that in reality they were guided by God’s Grace which inspired their minds like the ones who originally wrote on my tomb in Rome.”
In fact, the author of the history of the translation of the body of Saint Philomena, states to have written on the epitaph just what came to his mind in that moment, without having the opportunity to consult books or educated people of the time as all the editions of that work were taken away from his home and country.
Now, let us go back to the story the Saint was telling me:
“My parents always showed me great affection and tenderness, especially my father who could not be without me for even an hour, and for this reason he took me with him to Rome. I was just thirteen. My father had to speak to the powerful and proud Emperor Diocletian about the unjust war declaration against my people. My poor father, aware of the small size of his army, asked for a hearing with Diocletian to discuss peace between the reigns. My mother and I went with him. During the meeting, while my father tried to make the emperor see how unjust the war declaration was, the emperor kept staring at me and then he said: ‘Do not trouble yourself anymore; all your distress is over; you shall have the power of the whole empire to protect you as long as you give your consent and let me have your daughter as my spouse."
My poor parents agreed, and once home they tried to convince me about my great destiny to one day be a Roman Empress. I refused the offer at once, explaining that I was bound since the age of 11 to Jesus Christ our Lord by the vow of chastity. But my father reminded me that I was his daughter and so did not have any power over my destiny. Therefore he threatened me to accept the marriage proposal, but with great strength given me by my spouse, I refused categorically.
My father was embarrassed by my resolution which the emperor believed to be a pretext for breaking faith with him and deceiving him. So to make sure, he asked my father to bring Princess Philomena to see if he could persuade me. My father came home to take me to the emperor. He tried to induce me to accept this marriage, first by coaxing me and then by threatening me. But when he realized that my decision was irreversible, he fell down on his knees with my mother and said: ‘Daughter, have mercy on your parents; have mercy on your country and Kingdom.’ I answered: ‘God and my virginity are more important to me than my Kingdom, and my Home is heaven!’
However, my father had to accept the emperor’s request. The emperor initially treated me with respect and affection and promises, but to no avail. Then he started to threaten me, but again without obtaining anything. In a moment of fury and anger he ordered me to be locked in the jail in the basement of the palace. Here I was chained hands and feet to persuade me to marry him. This marriage was avidly desired by him through the influence of my infernal enemy who governed the cruel and lustful heart of the emperor. Every twenty four hours he would come and torment me with his requests. He would bring me bread and water, at times he would perform immodest acts to attempt to inflame me with lust, but my divine spouse would be my strength.
I never stopped entrusting myself to Jesus and his Holy Mother. After thirty seven days, the Queen of Heaven, surrounded by dazzling light, holding Her Son in her arms, appeared to me and said: ‘My child, you will bear this imprisonment only another three days, and after another forty days you will be free from this horrible place.’ At these words my heart became full of joy, but then she said: ‘You will be exposed to terrible tortures for my Son.’ At this news I trembled, I saw myself being tortured to death, but the Queen of Heaven exhorted me by saying: ‘My beloved child, your name is Lumena like my name and that of my son: my son, your spouse, bears the name of light, star and sun; my name is Aurora, Star, Moon or Sun: I will stand by you.
This is a difficult time where human weakness humiliates you: but then you will receive the strength of Grace, which will support you and you will have apart from your guardian Angel, also Gabriel Archangel, who signifies strength. He was my guardian on earth, and I will send him to support you my dearest child.’ After hearing those words I regained my courage. The vision disappeared, leaving in the prison a permeating perfume which greatly consoled me.
Finally, despaired by his failed attempts to persuade me in betraying my virginity vow, Diocletian had me tied naked to a pillar in front of knights and soldiers and ordered them to torture me. He said, ‘As she obstinately refuses an Emperor in place of a criminal condemned by his own people, she deserves like him to be treated according to my justice.’ When the tyrant saw me standing by my faith despite my body all covered in blood and open wounds, and that only a few hours were left before I died, he ordered I be sent back to the prison to die, and there I was dragged back again. I was waiting for the moment to rest with my spouse, when two Angels full of light appeared and with heavenly balm cured my wounds.
The following morning, the emperor was stunned to see me more beautiful and healthier than ever in his presence. Hence he wanted me to believe that it had happened because of Jupiter’s will to see me above all as a Roman Empress. But despite his sweetness and caresses guided by the Evil spirit, I reassured him of my faith, illuminated by the Holy Ghost, who accompanied me in my battle. Then he became as furious as a lion and ordered an anchor to be tied round my neck and that I be thrown with this and left to die in the water of the river Tiber, so that my person and my recollection of me be lost forever. At that moment Jesus showed his supremacy by sending two beautiful Angels to cut the rope and the anchor fell to the bottom of the river, where it still stands today covered by earth. I was carried on the Angels’ wings looking glorious and healthy without having been touched by water. Many of the people who saw what had happened embraced the Faith in Christ afterwards.
Desperately, the tyrant declared that this was all through magic and had me dragged along the streets of Rome and then my body pierced with arrows. When he saw me wounded by the arrows, covered in blood, nearly dying, he threw me back in prison, to die without comfort. But God granted me a peaceful sleep and when I awoke, I found myself healthier and more beautiful than ever. When the emperor heard about this, bursting with anger and cruelty, he ordered that naked torture be repeated till I died, using the most sharp arrows available. The Almighty showed his power and the arrows would not leave their bows while the tyrant shouted against me, telling me I was a witch.
He ordered the use of searing arrows heated in a furnace, believing this would destroy what he called my magic; but again my Spouse freed me from this tribulation. The arrows redirected themselves against the archers and six of them were killed. At this miracle more people embraced the Christian Faith.
Fearing the worst, Diocletian ordered I be beheaded. My soul rose triumphant and glorious to Heaven to receive my Spouse and the crown of Virginity, for which I suffered so many torments. This fortunate day for me was the 10th of August at 19:30 local time. And it was for this reason that the Almighty arranged for my translation to Mugnano on the 10th of August with all its glorious support from Heaven.” (Fig 35)
This is a greatly interesting narration which had and still has its importance, even though no historical attributes have been considered. It deserves to be handed down and divulged. This is also what we are doing with our book.