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The Catholic Defender: Saint Januarius


Today the Church celebrates St. Januarius, the patron saint of Naples and of blood banks, and his strange story is one of the best.


Januarius is the patron saint of Naples, where the faithful gather three times a year in Naples Cathedral to witness the liquefaction of what is claimed to be a sample of his blood kept in a sealed glass ampoule.


The Church believes that the miracle takes place in response to the dedication and prayers of the faithful. When the miracle occurs, the mass of reddish dried blood, adhering to one side of the ampoule, turns into completely liquid blood, covering the glass from side to side.


Many centuries ago, Saint Januarius died for the Faith during the persecution of Diocletian. God, through the blood which His servant shed for Him, some of which is conserved in Naples, continues to strengthen the faith of the Church, and to work there a regular miracle by its means.


The bishop is believed to have been martyred during the Christian persecution of Emperor Diocletian. In local lore, the failure of the blood to liquefy signals war, famine, disease, or other disaster. The liquefaction traditionally happens at least three times a year: Sept.


He is believed to have been martyred in the Emperor Diocletian's persecution of 305. Legend has it that Januarius and his companions were thrown to the bears in the amphitheater of Pozzuoli, but the animals failed to attack them. They were then beheaded, and Januarius' blood ultimately brought to Naples.


Little is known about the life of Januarius. He is believed to have been martyred in the Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of 305. Legend has it that Januarius and his companions were thrown to the bears in the amphitheater of Pozzuoli, but the animals failed to attack them. They were then beheaded, and Januarius’ blood ultimately brought to Naples.


“A dark mass that half fills a hermetically sealed four-inch glass container, and is preserved in a double reliquary in the Naples cathedral as the blood of St. Januarius, liquefies 18 times during the year…Various experiments have been applied, but the phenomenon eludes natural explanation….” [From the Catholic Encyclopedia]


It is defined Catholic doctrine that miracles can happen and are recognizable. Problems arise, however, when we must decide whether an occurrence is unexplainable in natural terms, or merely unexplained. We do well to avoid an excessive credulity but, on the other hand, when even scientists speak about “probabilities” rather than “laws” of nature, it is something less than imaginative for Christians to think that God is too “scientific” to work extraordinary miracles to wake us up to the everyday miracles of sparrows and dandelions, raindrops and snowflakes.

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