The brief story of Masa Feszty’s St. Philomena picture which can be found
in Mugnano del Cardinale, Italy
In December 1998 I visited my old artist friend, Monika H., I brought for her a holy card with the picture of a saint, asking her to make a drawing of it. I told her that I would like to use this drawing for printing. The picture on this holy card was of St. Philomena. The original painting was Masa Feszty’s work, and the holy card was made on the basis of this same painting, realized at the beginning of the 1950s. The painting can be found in Buda, in the church of Felső-Krisztinavaros.
After more than ten years’ of silence, my wish seemed quite strange for her, but considering our friendship when we were children, she promised me to make the drawing. The artist, my friend, had never before heard anything about St. Philomena. On the occasion of my visit I told her briefly about St. Philomena’s wonderful life, her martyrdom, her miraculous acts, especially accentuating the miracle which happened in our family in the early nineties through her intervention.
The drawing was ready even before Christmas.
After a few weeks – just on the day after St. Philomena’s memorial mass, in the evening, Monika H. called me to tell me with enthusiasm about what had happened to her on that day.
In the morning the artist was arranging her affairs in the city when, passing by a newly opened antique shop, through the big window and glass door, a painting caught her eye. (The shop was previously a clothes shop and the old shop name, Perla Blue, was still on the sign over the door. This was remarkable because Father Braschi had previously named me Perla, the Italian for my Hungarian name, since he found my name too difficult to pronounce. More remarkable is that the antique shop closed for good after selling us the painting, almost as though the only reason for its existence was to make the sale.) She didn’t want to beleive her eyes!! At first glance she thought she recognized the same saint whom she had drawn a few weeks earlier. Their faces were similar, the same big dark round eyes were looking at her. The astonishment forced her to enter the shop. She hesitatingly asked the salesman whether the painting was St. Philomena’s picture. After naming even the painter – she was right in telling Masa Feszty’s name – the salesman was very surprised and expressed his satisfaction with her exceptional acquaintance with this work of art. Returning home she felt that she had to tell me immediately of this event, which seems incredible to us up to now.
After the St. Philomena mass of January 1999 I was just thinking of the possibility of thanking Father Braschi, the director of the St. Philomena sanctuary, for his devotion and generous work done by him in March and November 1997 in Budapest for the even wider respect of St. Philomena in Hungary. And the next day, my friend, the artist of the St. Philomena drawing called me. With this telephone call I immediately felt the influence of the powers above and it became obvious that the painting must go to the St. Philomena sanctuary. With a small group of St. Philomena’s devotees we went to the antique shop to see the picture. We didn’t know of this work of Masa Feszty before. Probably a private person had brought it to the shop for sale. It was a great pleasure to find this picture with a new beautiful image of our little saint. We reinforced our intention to buy and left a deposit for the painting. The price of the painting was collected very quickly, and in a few days we could buy it. Father Braschi, hearing our telephone message, was deeply touched and expressed his joy and gratitude in advance to the Hungarian St. Philomena devotees for this act. After buying the painting it was an open question, and seemed to be an unsolvable problem, as to how to export it to Mugnano del Cardinale, to the St. Philomena sanctuary.
However, the Almighty, in a manner similar to the way the painting was discovered, took into his hands its exportation, too. My younger son has been a soccer player of a well-known Budapest team for more than 10 years. Then – in May 1999 – his trainer held an extra meeting for parents to inform them that the young soccer players (they were 12 then) had received an invitation for an international cup. The cup was to be organized June 20-25 in Italy, near the Rome-Napoli motorway in one of the suburbs of Rome (Zagarolo). The expenses would be covered by the organixers – except the travelling costs. I didn’t want to believe my ears!! The plan was immediately ready in my thoughts. We, too, should go to this cup as accompanying persons and would take with us the painting of St. Philomena. The sanctuary is about 200-250 km from there.
The arrangement of official authorization for the exportation of the painting was not easy, but finally the Ministry of Cultural Heritage agreed for us to transport the painting to Italy.
We arrived at the St. Philomena sanctuary on the evening of Sunday, June 27, 1999. Father Braschi was just preparing himself for the mass when we were able to hand over the painting to him in the sacristy.
Budapest, June 5, 2007