The History of the Universal Arch confraternity of Saint Philomena
In France, after the death of the Holy Curé of Ars, Saint John Vianney, in 1859, a zealous priest in Paris, called Father Luis Petit, consecrated his life to making the Little Saint known and loved. “Far from us the thought,” said the virtuous Father Petit, “to make the cult of Saint Philomena a devotional that could be damaging to the cult of the most Holy Virgin, or even more, the adoration of the only God. That would not be Christian, as we know Christianity to be from the evangelical teachings of the Church. With our devotion to Saint Philomena we bless God who is reflected in His Saints. Honoring Saint Philomena we proclaim the power of God in the strength of His Martyrs, and His Infinite Goodness in the favors He concedes to the prayers of His Saints. This was the theology of the Holy Curé of Ars, and this will be ours also”.
In August, 1876, the first copy of the Messenger of Saint Philomena was issued from the headquarters in Paris. This publication spread devotion to her throughout the entire world.
In the tracks of the venerable Father Petit, the Sanctuary published the bulletin, The Voice of Saint Philomena under the guidance of the highly esteemed rector, Monsignor Gennaro Ippolito. This same priest, on February 10th, 1884, at Paris, with the blessing and approval of the Cardinal Giubert, founded the Confraternity of Saint Philomena, called also, the Work of Saint Philomena. So, this is how the Work of Saint Philomena was born. Still today, following the directives of the Sanctuary at Mugnano, it spreads her devotion throughout the world.
In testimony of the above, we publish the following letter:
Very Reverend Father Rector, everywhere to England there can be found devotion to Saint Philomena, and some wish that the Confraternity of the Saint be established in this country. In the diocese of Leads there is a priest, looked upon favorably by the Bishop, who is disposed to act as Spiritual Director of the Confraternity should it eventuate. He would like to know if there is in existence a stable Constitution or Rule for this Confraternity, and he would be very grateful to receive information about this point. In the hope of receiving your kind reply, I give you my most sincere regards, Mrs. Margaret Seddon, Near Keighley, Yorks, England. 11.6.1985.
The Confraternity of Saint Philomena was raised to the rank of Arch Confraternity by Pope Leo XIII, November, 1886
On June 16th, 1907, the Supreme Pontiff Pius X, receiving in audience Father Petit, from Paris, the director of the Work of Saint Philomena, exclaimed: “Ah, Saint Philomena! It is very sad to read what has been written recently against her” (The Holy Father was referring to certain detractors of the cult of Saint Philomena who dared to maintain that our Little Saint did not even exist.) “It is incredible,” continued the Holy Father, “that such things can come about without them (the detractors) looking at the great argument in favour of the saint, the Holy Curé of Ars. By her, in her name, and through her intercession, he obtained innumerable graces and continual prodigies.”
To definitively affirm the cult of Saint Philomena and to give the final word, on May 21, 1912, Pope Pius raised the Venerable Archconfraternity of Saint Philomena into the Universal Archconfraternity with the Apostolic Brief, “Pias Fidelium Societates,” in which he states very clearly: “We decree with the present words that it shall remain always stable, valid and effective, that it receive and obtain its effects fully and completely, in this way it must be regularly judged and defined, and if it proceeds in any other way, it will be null and without value, whatever the authority might be…”
Aims of the Work of Saint Philomena
The Work of Saint Philomena is an association of prayer and apostolate which resolves:
Commitment to a life according to the Gospel of Christ in the intentions which Pope Leo XIII and Saint Pius X have recommended, promoting them under the patronage of Saint Philomena and the Holy Curé of Ars:
Promotion of the Gospel message in the world of work.
Christian education of children and youth.
Prayer for vocations and the sanctification of the clergy.
Means: To realize these various aims, the Works always avails itself of the prayers, and of the spiritual and material support of its members. The offerings of members are used for the diffusion of the cult through press publications, information releases, pamphlets, etc. The Works publishes a special bulletin, The Voice of Saint Philomena.
1. Little Members. This section comprises children under 14 years of age who have confided themselves to the protection of Saint Philomena. The Little Members of Saint Philomena, if they wish, can do much for the reign of Christ, since prayer is the great force in the world.
2. Members: These place themselves under the protection of Saint Phil0omena. They unite their prayers and their apostolate together with those of the other Members of the Archconfraternity on behalf of the other members and for the great intentions that the Church has entrusted to the Association.
3. Members of The Cord of Saint Philomena: Members of the Archconfraternity who wish to place themselves in particular manner under the protection of Philomena, or who desire to imitate more the example of the young martyr in the perfect practice of the duties of their state, carry as a badge, tied around their body, a white and red Cord which represents the virtues of their patron Saint:
Faith and the purity of virginity;
Charity and the generosity of martyrdom.
The Cord is a sign of special devotion towards her, and is carried to obtain special graces, particularly that of following a chaste life according to one’s state. It is recommended for those who carry the Cord, to recite every day the following prayer:
Dear Saint Philomena, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us, so that through your powerful intercession, we may obtain that purity of spirit and of heart that leads to perfect Love of God. Amen.
His Holiness Leo XIII approved and enriched this devotion with precious indulgences in the Apostolic Brief of April 4, 1884.
Institution and Enrolment: Any priest or lay person involved in the promoting of evangelical ideals may form a Pious Confraternity of Saint Philomena, with the approval of the local bishop and the consent of the rector of the Sanctuary of Saint Philomena. Any Confraternity of Saint Philomena must conform to the principles of the statutes of the Universal Archconfraternity of Saint Philomena instituted by Saint Pius X in the Apostolic Brief “Pias Fidelium Societates” of May 21, 1912. Generous souls who desire to work fervently for the diffusion of the reign of God, find in the Archconfraternity of Saint Philomena favorable terrain to satisfy their ideals and their devotions.
1. Each member must wear the cord of Saint Philomena as a cincture under their clothing or carry it around with them. The cord must be blessed by the Rector of the Sanctuary or a priest authorized by the Rector.
2. Each member must read and encourage others to read the life of Saint Philomena.
3. Each member should recite daily, where possible, the Chaplet of Saint Philomena.
4. Each member should attend Mass and receive Communion on the 10th January, 25th May, 10th and the 11th August.
5. Members are encouraged to make an annual donation according to their means, if at all possible.
1. Mass will be celebrated every second Friday of the month for members living and dead.
2. The members will benefit in all of the prayers offered at the Sanctuary.
3. Members will gain a plenary indulgence* when one wears the Cord**, on the feast days of 10th January, 25th May, 10th and the 11th August.
4. A plenary indulgence* is gained at the hour of death provided one invokes the name of Jesus, with one’s own lips or heart. This same indulgence can be gained if for a grave reason one is unable to go to Confession or receive Communion, provided one is repentant.
*Under the conditions laid down by the Church; confession, communion and prayer for the Holy Father, are required to gain a plenary indulgence.
**Pope Leo XIII approved and indulged Saint Philomena’s blessed cord on the 15th December 1883.