|The following series of slide shows were sent to us with descriptions written by Henry Bludau . These were taken on his pilgrimages to Ars , La Salette , Loreto , Lyon , Mugnano , Paris and Rome .|
Band plays in town square under the lights on the anniversary feast of her translation and arrival in Mugnano in 1805.
The next day begins at dawn with a cannon shot echoing across town as a wakeup call. I caught this little four-man band playing as I walked to St. Philomena's shrine through the quiet early morning streets of the town.
Arriving at the shrine a few minutes before it opened meant a short wait on the porch, but an excellent chance to photograph the bronze outer doors. The panels depict the translation of the relics to Mugnano; the cure of Pauline Jaricot; and the Popes who were devoted to St. Philomena.
Pictures of the miraculous wooden processional staue of St. Philomena, 200 years old and still carried out and through the town every year. The reliquary at the foot of the processional statue contains 1) a piece of bone from St. Philomena; 2) a piece of the clothing which the papermache figure built around her bones inside the glass-sided urn had worn; 3) a strand of the miraculous silk hair from the figure which had grown out 27 inches.
There is also in the church at Mugnano a beautiful statue of St. Philomena and the Cure of Ars. He once had been praying to her for an answer to what he should do with a substantial sum of money he had received -- whether to use it to begin building the new church he had always wanted to dedicate in her honor, or use it in his favorite cause of paying for other priests to go and preach missions at different churches. He said he was praying at the foot of the altar at Ars when he saw St. Philomena, all beautiful, coming down from heaven to stand before him. She solved his dilemma by telling him that "Saving souls is the most important."
This is a St. Philomena cake, part of the party, mostly of people of a pilgrim group from Northern Ireland that took place inside the Pilgrims' House one night.
The rest of the pictures were taken over the course of ten days, all of our beautiful princess-sister herself, in her Snow White like casket. You don't think of this image as a statue at all, it is St. Philomena. She so radically changed this figure over the years since it was first built around her bones and arrived at Mugnano, that you can't help but feel you are looking at a self-portrait of St. Philomena. The figure may have been unattractive when it was first made, but now it is beautiful beyond words. You just want to sit and stare and talk to her all day, which is why I stayed ten days there, way beyond the feast days, when it again became quiet and peaceful in there, and it was just you, a few others, and the dog lying just inside the open front door.
In the PREPARATION folder are pictures of the processional staue inside the church being prepared for the procession that evening. This is the same wooden statue that once became so supernaturally heavy that the men of the village had to do all they could just to get her back inside the church. This was followed the next day by the statue sweating the miraculous crystalline manna down its face for two days. Notice in the pictures that it is the men of the town who take sole responsibility for dressing up our saint for her night on the town. The tapestries they hang from her hand and on either side are sewn in with gold jewelry -- rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, even watches -- all gifts of St. Philomena's devotees in the town and elsewhere. The girls of the town are responsible for carrying the red canopy ahead of St. Philomena, I guess in case it rains. They never actually carry her under the canopy, but it is easier to spot sometimes than the statue from way down the street. Finally the priest incense the staue and it is ready to be carried forth to the crowd waiting outside.
In the actual PROCESSION folder itself, are pictures of St. Philomena coming out to the people. Unlike Ars, where a week before I had taken part in another procession on the Cure's feast day of August 4th -- in which his heart reliquary was solemnly carried along a road accompanied by a cardinal, several bishops and about 70 priests, the Rosary prayed over the entire route -- the procession of St. Philomena was a loud joyous celebration. A brass band, with 5 tubas and other horns of all sorts, fifes, and a huge bass drum, started up as soon as she started down the steps of the church, and we were off, with St. Philomena, decked out like a glorious warrior princess in the lead. the band played evrything they knew, even "Stars and Stripes Forever", which is just the kind of fun-loving saint Philomena is. It took 6&half hours to tour every street in the town, even though it would only take you about twenty minutes to walk straight across it, and everywhere people were waiting for her to come, out on their apartment balconies and along the narrow streets, waiting to bless themselves upon her arrival and short stop before their dwellings. In several spots, people shot off fireworks into the air so loud that they seemed to reverberate through the town, and at one particular courtyard off the narrow street, the fire works went off so close to us that hot ashes rained down upon us and the statue itself without anyone even batting an eye.
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