Ten years ago, I asked my novice master, Fr. Ambrose, for permission to begin writing and illustrating a book on the life of St. Philomena. The permission was granted, the project was blessed, and I began pulling together all the materials needed to complete this book. While I wasn’t sure if I actually ever would finish the project, I had really believed that it was something worth beginning. And though it's been ten years since that permission was given, My Name is Philomena: A Saint’s Story is now finally complete.
It might seem strange that a Norbertine would want to make an illustrated book about St. Philomena. When I came to the Abbey I discovered here a lively devotion to Our Lady, St. Augustine, and St. Michael, and the saints of the Norbertine Order too. Being devoted to these saints made perfect sense, but I was surprised also to discover a lively devotion to St. Philomena, whom I never knew before. In the novitiate hallway stood a beautiful statue and a relic her and, all throughout the day, many of the seminarians would pilgrimages there; and every night after compline many of the novices would kneel there in fervent prayer.
The fraters began teaching me all about her. They told me the marvelous account of the discovery of her relics; relics which were a catalyst for miracles wherever they went. I learned about the private revelations through which we learned the few details about her life. There is so much that can be said about her story and the many saints who were devoted to her: St. John Vianney, Padre Pio and St. Peter Julian Eymard, to name only a few. Along with these saints, it was clear among her devotees were many of my brothers at St. Michael’s.
I wasn’t sure what to think of all this, but I slowly started to make routine pilgrimages to her relic too, asking her intercession. After a while, I was left with a strong sense that she was really listening and, after some months of receiving the fruits of her intercession, I was wanted to do something for her. Since I enjoy writing and the illustrating, the happy thought came to me that I could write and illustrate a book about her life. It took weeks to write the text followed by many months of sketching out the concept art. The next thing rendering the sketches in color took the greater part of a decade.
The reason for this long duration was because of my monastic vocation here at the Abbey. The bell rings all throughout the day calling the confreres back to worship God in our Abbey Church. The prayers, classes and manual labor of a seminarian here takes up the bulk of his time, with very little energy left for other projects. And this was very good for me. I learned to give myself to the rhythm of the monastery. I learned to put down the art supplies and put the worship of God above all else.
Admittedly, I was frustrated at times with the lengthy process; however, when it was finished, I realized that this St. Philomena project had been with me throughout my entire time in formation and in three different countries: Here at our Abbey in the U.S., our theologate in Canada, and finally at our Generalate in Rome. How meaningful it was to me that the bulk of the work was finally completed in the very city where St. Philomena herself was martyred.
After submitting the manuscript to multiple publishing house—and after multiple rejections—TAN Books decided that they would publish this book. They’ve been a joy to work with. After they took on the project, I asked Fr. Abbot for permission that the author’s profit the Abbey receives could go to our seminarian fund to support our young men in formation. I was grateful when that permission was granted!
So now I happily invite you to learn more about St. Philomena through this little book. There are also many other books which provide greater details about her life, revelations and the discover of her relics. And, most importantly, I also invite you to pray to her, asking her intercession for whatever you need. Take this advice also from the Curé of Ars, St. John Vianney who said: “My children, Saint Philomena has great power with God, and she has, moreover, a kind heart; let us pray to her with confidence.”
“My Name is Philomena: A Saint’s Story” is available on TANBooks.com, Amazon and online wherever books are sold. It may also be available at your local Catholic Bookstore. St. Philomena’s feast day is August 11th.