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THE SAINT PHILOMENA MESSENGER
Issue Number 38 Spring, 2005, A.D.


Dear Friends of Saint Philomena,

This is a very important year for us. 2005 A.D. marks two hundred years from the “translation” or moving of the relics of Saint Philomena from Rome to the parish church of Our Lady of Grace, Mugnano del Cardinale near Naples and the beginning of the Saint’s thousands of miracles! The relics were discovered in the Catacombs of St. Priscilla, Rome in 1802.

WHAT WERE OR ARE THE CATACOMBS?


The Catacombs of St. Callistus


In many places, especially in Rome, Christians adopted the ancient Jewish practice of burying their dead in underground cemeteries, afterwards known as “catacombs”. About 70 catacombs in Rome are known, many others are still blocked by the earth and rubbish of the centuries. These were Christian cemeteries, not hiding places as legend has it. Even during the persecutions they enjoyed the protection of the Roman law, so that the faithful could celebrate the memorial days of the Martyrs without interference. When the persecutions ceased, the catacombs became a place of religious reverence. Popes, especially St. Damasus (366-384), did much to make the catacombs more accessible and to decorate their interiors. In the succeeding centuries Gothic, Vandal and Lombard invaders plundered and partly destroyed them.
After that the catacombs were abandoned and to a great part closed. Their very existence was hardly suspected until the end of the 16th. Century.

A fascinating –and earliest- account of the catacombs is given by St. Jerome, who visited them around the year 354 A.D.
“When I was a boy,” he writes, “receiving my education in Rome, I and my schoolfellows used, on Sundays, to make the circuit of the sepulchers of the Apostles and Martyrs. Many a time did we go down into the Catacombs. These are excavated deep in the earth and contain on either hand as you enter, the bodies of the dead buried in the walls… Only occasionally is light let in to mitigate the horror of the gloom, and then not so much through a window as through a hole. You take each step with caution as, surrounded by deep night, you recall the words of Virgil (Aen. II, 755) : “Everywhere there is horror, at the same time the silence itself terrifies the mind.”

I can testify that nothing much has changed. I was privileged to offer Holy Mass for the Souls in Purgatory in the Catacombs of St. Callistus three days after my ordination in 1984. Modernity had but added strings of electric light bulbs which helped vision, but our guide warned us solemnly that should anyone wander from the group he might never get out, since the tunnels ran for of miles and most of them were quite unlit.

The relics of Saint Philomena were discovered on the 25th. day of May, 1802 in the Catacombs of St. Priscilla on the Via Salaria Nuova. This day when her tomb was opened was found the skeleton of a girl, around thirteen years of age. She had been lanced to death. A small vase containing some of the martyr’s dried blood was found near the girl’s head. The relics were taken to the Custodia Generale in the Vatican.

To cut a long story short, one which may be read in any of the various books on Saint Philomena (I recommend Sister Mohr’s “Saint Philomena: Powerful with God”), the relics arrived in Mugnano on the 10th. of August 1805 after a journey replete with miracles. Saint Philomena was now in her new home!

NEWS FROM THE NATIONAL SHRINE

Saint Philomena has character! She did not wish us to pass by her anniversary without special reasons to celebrate. So it is that an anonymous donor arranged for us to receive a hand-carved statue of the Saint just before Christmas. Again, around the same time I was able to obtain / rescue through the internet another First Class relic of the Saint. The reliquary contains some of Saint Philomena’s hair and is authenticated by the Cardinal Archbishop of Naples in a certificate dated 1899!


SPECIAL CELEBRATIONS THIS YEAR

Wednesday, 25th. May: Discovery of the sacred relics of Saint Philomena. 10.00 a.m. Holy Mass.

Friday, 5th. August: First day of the Solemn Novena of Masses in honour of Saint Philomena (See below).

Sunday, 14th. August: Patronal Festival of Saint Philomena. 11.00 a.m. Solemn High Mass, Street Procession, Devotions to the Saint, Blessing with her Relics, anointing with the Holy Oil, fireworks, music and refreshments.

Wednesday, 10th. August: Translation of the Relics of Saint Philomena from Rome to Mugnano del Cardinale. 10.00 a.m. Holy Mass.

TO REMIND YOU…
Every Friday we celebrate a Mass in honour of Saint Philomena, venerate her First Class Relic and receive the anointing with her Holy Oil. The Mass is at 7.00 p.m. and is a High Mass. Please spread the word if you live locally!

SAINT PHILOMENA PATRONAL FESTIVAL, 2005, A.D.

Sunday, 14th. August, 2005
11.00 a.m. Solemn High Mass, Procession of the Saint, Veneration of her First Class Relics & anointing with her holy oil.
All are invited to a reception after the ceremonies.


DIRECTIONS, ACCOMODATION, etc
.

Please call us for directions to the Shrine and recommendations for accommodation locally.

NOVENA OF MASSES PRECEDING THE PATRONAL FESTIVAL

A novena of Masses will be offered prior to the celebration on August 14th. To participate in the spiritual benefits derived from these Masses, please write your intentions on the enclosed card and return it to us in the envelope provided, along with a donation, if possible. Intentions will remain on the altar where the Masses will be celebrated throughout the Novena.


PERPETUAL MASSES

Anyone requesting a Perpetual Mass will have his intentions inscribed in the Book of Perpetual Masses. A beautiful certificate will be sent, inscribed with the name(s) of those to be remembered at Masses offered on the four annual feast days of Saint Philomena, namely: Her Birthday, 10th. January; The discovery of her precious body, 25th. May; The anniversary of her glorious death and the translation of her body from Rome to Mugnano del Cardinale, 10th. August; Her principal feast day, 11th. August.
To request Perpetual Masses, please use the form provided on Page 4 of this Newsletter

Fr. Enrique Rueda and myself hope to see as many of you as possible on the forthcoming celebrations on honour of our Patroness in this her special year. May the Good Lord shower upon you His choicest blessings through the powerful intercession of Saint Philomena!

The Revd. Fr. Timothy A. Hopkins, B.A., M.Th., P.G.C.E., Administrator of the Shrine.