the unveiling of philomena
While I’ve been acquainted with St. John Vianney for years, my friendship with the patron saint of priests is a more recent development. I am drawn to John Vianney for many reasons, but mostly because of the struggles he overcame and his devotion to St. Philomena. So when my friend, Mic Carlson who is a local artist, told me that he had been commissioned to do a painting of St. Philomena for St. John Vianney Parish, I was thrilled!
The unveiling and dedication of the painting took place on St. John Vianney’s feast day after a special Mass honoring the great saint. Mass was preceded by a Holy Hour to pray for parish priests.
Rosario and I arrived moments before Benediction (my work schedule prevented us from arriving any earlier). There were a few minutes before Mass started and Rosario was able to meet the man who with his wife had commissioned the painting. Though they wish to remain anonymous, Mic knew that we were already familiar with their story and introduced us.
The wife is suffering from an incurable from of melanoma. She and her husband approached their parish priest, Fr. Mike of St. John Vianney, for comfort and wisdom. He advised to ask for the intercession of St. Philomena, the wonder-worker. They all prayed about how they could honor the little saint and that’s when Mic was contacted.
Just before Mass on Wednesday, Rosario also met Fr. Mike, who was aware of her story and devotion to St. Philomena. He asked Rosario if she would be willing to say a few words during the dedication about Philomena’s intercession throughout her recovery.
Mass was beautiful! Father gave an incredible homily in which he followed John Vianney’s lead and encouraged us to utilize the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Confession.
After Mass, Fr. Mike invited Mic up for the unveiling and dedication. Father gave a little background on St. Philomena and shared the circumstances that brought forth the work of art. With Mic’s help, Fr. Mike uncovered the large canvas. The painting is absolutely breath-taking. I can’t even begin to describe the beauty and perfection of Mic’s handiwork.
There were few moments of silent admiration and then Father invited Rosario to give testimony to the power of prayer – specifically the intercession of Philomena. It was the first time Rosario has shared her story publicly, and she did a fantastic job! St. Philomena has been one of Rosario’s closest companions during the events of the past year. When she heard of Mic’s project, Rosario began interceding for him. She loaned him a relic of St. Philomena and also some holy oil from Philomena’s shrine in Italy. Mic kept the relic with him as he painted, and he mixed some of the holy oil into the oil paints used to create the beauty of Philomena.
Rosario’s miraculous survival story was received by the congregation with amazement. The painting was then blessed and the people were invited to venerate the sacramental.
The entire evening was moving. During the Mass and dedication, I felt very close to the Church Triumphant, especially St. John Vianney and St. Philomena. How blessed we are to have their examples of humility and confidence in the Lord and their powerful intercession.
St. John Vianney, pray for us!
St. Philomena, pray for us!