Tuesday 5 June 2018

Saint Philomena - Alice Curtayne

Saint Philomena
Alice Curtayne

Australian Catholic Truth Society

To say I have become fascinated by the works of Alice Curtayne would be an understatement. In the last 6 months I have tracked down 14 of her works, read 9 and reviewed 8. But every time I do research on her, I find more books or booklets I was previously unaware of. And I have not even started trying to investigate reading all her articles, in magazines, periodicals, and news papers. Her books appear to have the widest publican in Ireland, as would be expected for an Irish writer. But there are also several her books and booklets available from Australia such as this small volume. And almost all of her works are currently out of print. According to her grandson, none of her books are in print in the UK; and based on my research only 3 are in print in North America. 

Tracking down this booklet has proven very timely. A friend's daughter has chosen Saint Philomena as her confirmation saint, and I was able to share this booklet with her and her parents. My own daughter chose Saint Brigid and used 4 works by Curtayne in preparing her speech on the saint she chose and why. 

This little booklet was a fascinating read. I was aware of the name Saint Philomena, and that she was a martyr. But did not know anything else about her. To read about the discover of her crypt. The message on the sealed tomb, and the miracles attributed to her so soon as she was on her way to a specific church was amazing. 

Curtayne in this booklet presents, the archeology, history and papal intervention in the cause and formation of the cult of Saint Philomena. And even though this booklet was published, I believe by the Catholic truth Society in both the UK and Australia, in 1934 it is a wonderful booklet to read today. The booklet begins with a history of the City of the Dead beneath Rome. The tomb was found by accident when workmen were clearing out a tunnel in the cemetery of Saint Pricilla. Considered to be one of the oldest catacombs and dating to the second century at the latest. Curtayne states:

"The Tomb-recess from which the earth had been cleared away was a small one. There was an immediate touch of pathos in this; for these recesses are pierced of unequal length, each designed to fit the body for which it was intended. The shelf tomb was not quite five feet long, and, therefore, the Christian sleeper within had not been of Herculean proportions. The recess was sealed by means of three large terra-cotta slabs, or tiles, closely cemented into place. … An inscription ran the length of the tiles, not an incised inscription, but letters painted, or rather daubed crudely, very much as a present-day schoolboy would scrawl them with some red pigment, like vermilion."

And thus, the discover of Philomena was made. The transcription of the symbols is 'Philomena Peace be with you.'. and after 17 centuries in the earth the bones of the saint would again see the light of day. Soon a priest from a small town of Muggiano, not far from Naples, went to Rome to petition the pope for relics of a saint. Pope Pius VII encouraged Father di Lucia to take the relics of the martyr Philomena. And while the reliquary was on the way, it stopped at Naples for a month, and that is when the miracles began. Requests for the authorization of her cult began almost immediately, and from sources around the world. Word quickly spread about the miracles of this saint, and her intercession was sough often. 

Two of Saint Philomena's historic supporters were Pauline Jaricot, and the Cur of d'Ars. In fact, Pope Gregory XVI, was witness and supporter of one of the miracles attributed to Philomena. It is amazing how much material that Curtayne packed into this booklet that only contained 32 pages of text. 

As an aside: It is cool to see the mission of the Australian Catholic Truth Society, and the advertisement on the pamphlet. The Australian Catholic Truth Society has been digitizing all of the only booklets. When this one becomes available it is worth tracking down. I also found copies in Libraries in Australia, Scotland, and Ireland. If you can lay your hands on this I give it my highest recommendation.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books and Booklets by Alice Curtayne:
A Recall to Dante
Francis Ledwidge: A Life of the Poet
Lough Derg: St. Patrick's Purgatory
Patrick Sarsfield
Saint Anthony of Padua
St. Bernard Doctor of The Church 1933

Books Edited by Alice Curtayne:
The Complete works of Francis Ledwidge

Books Translated by Alice Curtayne:
Labours in the Vineyard by Giovanni Papin

Books Contributed to by Alice Curtayne:

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