St. Philomena was a young woman who was martyred around 304. She was probably born in Greece around 290. Much about her life is unknown, and what is known was only learned 1,500 years later. In 1802 her remains were found in a catacomb. The tomb included her bones, a vial of blood, and drawings of anchors, arrows, and a palm, signs of martyrdom. An inscription read, “Peace be with thee, Philomena.”
In 1805, a man was working in the Vatican’s Treasury of Relics. When he came across the bones of Philomena, he had a spiritual revelation. He was allowed to move the relics to a chapel in Mugnano, where several miracles were later reported. In 1833 a nun reported a vision that told her Philomena was a Greek princess who was martyred under the rule of Diocletian after taking a vow of consecrated virginity.
The case of Philomena’s canonization is unique in that her case rested solely on centuries-old relics and a vision. While Pope Gregory XVI declared her a saint in 1837, she never went through the typical process of formal canonization. However, the popularity of “St. Philomena” kept growing, until the See ordered the removal of her feast day from all calendars. This doesn’t mean that she isn’t a saint, or that devotion to her is prohibited, merely that she has not gone through the magisterial process of formal canonization.
Although not recognized on the general calendar, her feast day is August 11. She is a patron of children, youth, sterility, and virgins.