St. Philomena was only 13 years old when she defied and was killed by the most powerful man in the world, Roman Emperor Diocletian. What could be so offensive about a gentle, meek teenage princess? St. Philomena simply refused to break her vow of virginity to the Lord and marry Diocletian. Because of her stubborn faith, she was imprisoned, tortured, and killed.
St. Philomena’s courageous story is a parallel to our lives as teenagers today. Every time we vow anything to the Lord, we must be prepared to face opposition, just as St. Philomena did.
Born in Greece just before the fourth century, Philomena was the only child of a prince and princess who had recently converted to Christianity. Growing up a princess and dearly loved by her parents, she lived a life of luxury and comfort. Always strong in her faith, she vowed her life to Jesus at a young age. When she was just 13 years old, her parents traveled to Rome in an effort to stop a pending attack on their homeland. There, they met with Emperor Diocletian, who promised them safety on one condition: he wanted Philomena as his wife. Philomena’s parents were devastated, but knew they had no choice but to hand their beloved daughter over to the most powerful man in the world. Despite her parents’ pleas to give into the Emperor and avoid certain death, Philomena stood by her promise to God. Diocletian immediately ordered Philomena to be shackled and imprisoned until she conformed to his wishes. During her imprisonment, Our Lady appeared to her, holding the Infant Jesus in her arms, encouraging the young girl to be strong and preparing Philomena for the tortures to come.
Our Lord intervened several times on St Philomena’s behalf, performing miraculous healings and events while she was in the clutches of Diocletian.
St. Philomena stood by her promise even when faced with horrific pain and a mighty emperor who was determined to break her. We too are asked to stand by our promise to Jesus when the world tries to make us conform to its ways. In order to do this, we must ask for the grace of God to fill our hearts and be our daily strength.
St. Philomena is called “Powerful with God” because nothing is refused through her intercession. Her holy stubbornness makes her a steadfast saint to look to for courage and bravery in the face of great adversity. She will obtain for us the graces we need and stand by us in the hardest of times, especially when our purity is threatened.
Embracing purity is just as hard for teenagers now as it was for St. Philomena in the early days of the Church. The attack on purity we face is as great and as strong as Emperor Diocletian was. However, when we stand for what we believe in, we don’t stand alone. Even in the midst of her tortures, St. Philomena was visited by Our Lady and was healed by angels. She was never left alone by God. In the same way, He stands with us when we are faced with persecution. St. Philomena’s story proves that purity is worth suffering and even dying for. It is a precious gift from God, one that we should protect and value.
St. Philomena, Powerful with God, pray for us!
Teen author, Courtney Lee has captivated people ages eight to eighty with the publication of her first book, St. Philomena: The Story of a Stubborn Little Princess. A senior in high school, Courtney is currently working on a companion book to St. Philomena as well as a Catholic romance novel, hoping to have them both published before starting college in fall 2016 at Franciscan University. Read more about Courtney and her book here.