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by Vivian Imbruglia July 13, 2022 3 min read

Patron Saint of infants, babies, and youth Feast day: August 11

I was moved by the Holy Spirit to begin writing an icon on St. Philomena without a commission. She was drawn to St. Philomena’s story of wanting to remain a virgin and become a bride of Christ although she was given to an emperor at a very young age to be wed. The emperor did not take kindly to St. Philomena’s rejections and tried numerous times to have her killed. This included attaching an anchor to her in attempts to drown her as well as putting her in the line of archers. Each time, guardian angels came to her rescue until the emperor eventually had her beheaded. In the image of St. Philomena, you will find her halo has arrows on it which are pointing away from her. You will also find the anchor tied around her neck, three lilies as a sign of purity, a sheer veil and a crown of roses to show her devotion to being a Christ bride, and a palm symbolizing her martyrdom.  

While working on St. Philomena, I learned my grandson was showing early signs of autism. I understood general traits of autism; one of them being sensitivity to physical touch. I feared not being able to kiss and hug my grandson who bore a striking resemblance to her son and began doing research on the Patron Saint of Autism. I was unable to find one and instead came across a story of a priest who took the names of autistic children to a holy place and prayed to St. Philomena for them. Since St. Philomena was known as the wonder worker, I prayed for my grandson as I continued to write the icon.

When I paint icons, I put myself in a very prayerful state and I shut out the secular world. I often listens to the stories of the saints in which I am currently working for a full understanding of their impact on the world. My friends and family are aware of the setting I put myself in and they often reach out to me with prayer requests. As I continued my journey with St. Philomena, I received a call from a friend whose elderly aunt was experiencing a restless death. As I painted, I prayed for the aunt to be granted a peaceful death through the intercession of St. Philomena. A few days later I followed up with my friend to see how her aunt was doing. My friend chuckled and said that her aunt was truly losing it; she was telling everyone there was a little girl in a blue dress in her room ready to take her home. Philomena had answered my prayer.

Once the icon was completed, I earned that my grandson was diagnosed with autism, but his case was very mild. A future visit to my son would prove that St. Philomena answered another prayer when my grandson ran out, put his small hands on my cheeks and gave me a big kiss. The moment was captured by a picture which I keep in her studio as a reminder of the power of veneration.

I hung St. Philomena of the hallway in my home, but knew this wasn’t the icon’s final destination. I soon received a request from a priest at St. Michael’s Abby for a print of St. Philomena mounted on wood, as they were unable to afford to commission an original icon. I visited the Abby and learned the priest had a first class relic of St. Philomena and specifically taught the devotion to St. Philomena to young men. I then knew this was where the icon should be, so instead of a print I gave them the original. AMDG! 

Saint Philomena Icon


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