September 18, 2017

The Miraculous Liquefaction of St. Januarius’ Blood

Martyrdom of St. Januarius

Optional Memorial - September 19th

Saint Januarius is the 4th century bishop of Beneventum, who together with his companions (his deacons Socius and Festus, and his lector Desiderius), was martyred in the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian in c. 305. Beheaded at Puteoli, their bodies were reverently interred in the neighboring cities. Eventually the remains of St. Januarius became the prized possession of the city of Naples.

St. Januarius, Bishop Martyr, and the Miracle of His Blood

St. Januarius is known for the miracle of the liquefaction of his blood, which, according to popular piety, was saved by a woman named Eusebia just after the saint’s martyrdom. At least three times a year, on September 19, (St. Januarius’ feast day) December 16, (The celebration of his patronage of the city and the archdiocese) and the Saturday before the first Sunday of May, (the memorial of the reunification of his relics) thousands gather in Naples Cathedral in hopes of witnessing St. Januarius’ congealed blood miraculously liquefy and appear to boil.

The dried blood is stored in two hermetically sealed ampoules, held since the 17th century in a silver reliquary between round glass plates about 12 cm wide. The smaller ampoule contains only a few reddish specks on its walls. The larger ampoule, with a capacity of 60 ml, is about 60% filled with a reddish substance.

When the bishop takes the sacred vial containing the saint’s head to the altar, the assembled congregation prays that the blood becomes liquid. If the miracle takes place, the officiant proclaims, "Il miracolo é fatto!" (The miracle is accomplished!) and waves a white handkerchief. The Te Deum is recited and the reliquary taken to the altar rail so that all the faithful assembled may solemnly venerate the vial.

The first recorded liquefaction of St Januarius’ blood was in 1389. The blood can be fickle and sometimes remains congealed. Liquefaction is considered a sign that the year will be free from disasters. Conversely, the absence of a miracle may portend difficulty. (On the eve of World War II, the blood did not bubble up.)

Intercession and Veneration

In 1631, an impending eruption on Mt. Vesuvius threatened the city of Naples. The people prayed to St. Januarius to spare them. The flow of lava ceased and the city was saved. Ever since, St. Januarius has been invoked against volcanic eruptions. He is also the patron saint of Naples, Italy and blood banks. The San Gennaro festival in Little Italy, New York City celebrating St. Januarius’s feast is the longest continuously running public religious festival in the United States. Eternal God, who grant us to venerate the memory of the Martyr St. Januarius, give us, we pray, the joy of his company in blessed happiness for all eternity.

No comments :