For Christ Alone
Medium: Coloured Pencil
St. Philomena was the daughter of a Greek king, the only child of Christian converts. Her heart was consumed by grace from the age of five, when she received her First Communion. At the age of eleven, she was betrothed to the King of Kings through a vow of virginity.
When Philomena was thirteen, the proud and powerful Emperor Diocletian declared war upon her father’s kingdom, bringing her family to Rome to beg for peace. Setting eyes on the beautiful Greek princess, Diocletian promised peace if he could marry her. Her parents agreed, and on the journey home, they tried to convince Philomena of her good fortune in becoming Empress of the Romans. Philomena, however, rejected the offer without hesitation. Despite her parents’ pleading for the sake of her country and kingdom, she would not waver. She declared, “God and virginity come first. My kingdom and my country are Heaven.”
When Diocletian found Philomena unshakeable in her refusal, he launched his threat: “If you won’t have me as a lover, you shall have me as a tyrant!” Filled with the Holy Spirit, she answered, “I neither care for you as a lover, nor fear you as a tyrant.” For the next forty days, the young girl was shut up in dungeon, chained hand and foot, and fed bread and water once a day. Each day, the Emperor came to persuade her to marry him. On the thirty-sixth day, Philomena’s cell became illuminated by the light of Paradise: the Holy Virgin appeared to her, carrying her little Son. The Queen of Heaven forewarned Philomena that on the fortieth day, she would be exposed to a great battle of atrocious torments; but aided by heaven and the protection of the Holy Archangel Gabriel, she would come out victorious. This drawing of Philomena is meant to be of the moment of Our Lady’s visitation, which left her strengthened with supernatural courage. Our Lady’s light is reflected upon her, tears are welling up in her eyes as she accepts what is about to befall her, and she carries a white and a red rose, symbolic of virginity and martyrdom – the two precious diadems for her heavenly crown.
On the fortieth day, Diocletian made recourse to torture, determined to make Philomena renounce her vow to Christ. He had the young girl stripped naked before army officers, bound to a pillar and scourged, insisting that if she preferred Christ to him, she should be treated as He was. Covered in wounds yet constant in her word, the Emperor had her returned to prison to die alone. Instead, Philomena was anointed and healed by two Angels. Diocletian attributed the miracle to the god Jove, as a sign that she was destined to be his wife. After tempting her with honors and caresses of lustful affection, he ordered her to be bound to an anchor and thrown into the Tiber, that her memory might perish with her. Two Angels broke the cord and returned her body, dry and alive, back to safety. At this, witnesses began to convert to Christianity. Furious, the Emperor had her dragged through the whole of Rome, then stripped and shot with arrows. Seeing her pierced and dying in agony, he ordered that she be returned to the dungeon, to die forsaken. The next morning, he was stupefied to find her healed, rosy, and even more beautiful than before! He then ordered that she be shot with arrows until dead, but the archer’s arrows would not move. Cursing her for a witch and hoping that her witchcraft would fail against fire, he had the arrows heated red-hot in a furnace. Instead, the arrows reversed course in mid-air, killing six archers and converting many more witnesses. Fearing further consequences, at last Diocletian had her beheaded, freeing her soul to fly to her heavenly Bridegroom on August 10, 304.
Little Princess of Paradise, St. Philomena, please obtain for us the supernatural strength to be steadfast in every promise we make to God, whatever it may cost us. Help us not to fear what people may think of us or do to us as we witness to the Gospel. Lead us to commend ourselves, as you did, to Our Lady and her Son in our trials, that assisted by divine grace, we may emerge victorious and gain Heaven as our kingdom. Amen.