The Dispatch

Everything you need to know about the miracle of liquefaction of the blood of Saint Januarius

September 18, 2021 Catholic News Agency 1
Pope Francis and Cardinal Sepe hold relic of St. Januarius’ blood in Naples cathedral March 21, 2015. / CTV.

Naples, Italy, Sep 18, 2021 / 10:38 am (CNA).

On Sept. 19, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Januarius, bishop, martyr, and patron saint of Naples, Italy. Traditionally, on this day and on two other occasions a year, his blood, which is kept in a glass ampoule in the shape of a rounded cruet, liquifies. According to documentation cited by the Italian media Famiglia Cristiana, the miracle has taken place since at least 1389, the first instance on record.

Here are the key facts:

1. The blood is kept in two glass ampoules.

The dried blood of St. Januarius, who died around 305 A.D., is preserved in two glass ampoules, one larger than the other, in the Chapel of the Treasury of the Naples Cathedral.

2. The liquefaction is a miracle

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.

3. The blood traditionally liquifies three times a year.

The saint’s blood traditionally liquefies three times a year: in commemoration of the transfer of his remains to Naples (the Saturday before the first Sunday in May); on his liturgical feast (Sept. 19), and on the anniversary of the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius in 1631 when his intercession was invoked and the city was spared from the effects of the eruption (Dec. 16).

4. The liquefaction can take days.

The liquefaction process sometimes takes hours or even days, but sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. Normally, after a period that can range from two minutes to an hour, the solid mass turns red and begins to bubble.

The ampoules, which contain a dark solid mass, are enclosed in a reliquary that is held up and rotated sideways by a priest to show the blood has liquified. This is usually done by the Archbishop of Naples while the people pray.

According to the Italian Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana, the reliquary with the ampoules remains on view for the faithful for eight days, during which they can kiss it while a priest turns it to show that the blood is still liquid. Then it is returned to the safety vault and locked away inside the Chapel of the Treasury of the Cathedral.

5. The faithful venerate the relic every year.

With the exclamation: “The miracle has happened!” the people approach the priest holding the reliquary to kiss the relic and sing the “Te Deum” in thanksgiving.

6. There is no scientific explanation.

Several investigations have already been conducted in the past to find a scientific explanation that answers the question of how something solid can suddenly liquefy, but none has been satisfactory so far.

7. The liquefaction does not always occur.

When the blood doesn’t liquefy, the Neapolitans take it as an omen of misfortune.

The blood did not liquefy in September 1939, 1940, 1943, 1973, 1980, nor in December 2016.

The relic also remained solid the year Naples elected a communist mayor, but it spontaneously liquefied when the late Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Terence Cooke, visited the St. Januarius shrine in 1978.

8. The blood has liquefied in the presence of some popes.

In 2015, while Pope Francis was giving some advice to the religious, priests, and seminarians of Naples, the blood liquefied again.

The last time the liquefaction occurred before a pontiff was in 1848 with Pius IX. It did not happen when John Paul II visited the city in October 1979 or in the presence of Benedict XVI in October 2007.


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News Briefs

Blood of St. Januarius fails to liquefy on December feast

December 16, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Rome Newsroom, Dec 16, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- In Naples, the blood of St. Januarius remained solid Wednesday, after having liquefied both in May and September this year.

“When we took the reliquary from the safe, the blood was absolutely solid and remains absolutely solid,” said Fr. Vincenzo de Gregorio, abbot of the Chapel of St. Januarius in Naples Cathedral.

De Gregorio displayed the reliquary and the solidified blood inside to those gathered after morning Mass Dec. 16 in the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary.

The abbot said that the miracle sometimes occurred later in the day. In a video he could be seen saying “a few years ago at five in the afternoon, the home stretch, it liquefied. So we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

“The actual state, as you can see well, is absolutely solid. It does not give any sign, not even a little drop, as sometimes falls,” he added. “It’s alright, we will await the sign with faith.”

By the end of the day’s evening Mass, however, the blood was still solid.

Dec. 16 marks the anniversary of Naples’ preservation from the 1631 eruption of Mount Vesuvius. It is just one of three days per year the miracle of the liquefaction of St. Januarius’ blood often occurs.

The reputed miracle has not been officially recognized by the Church, but is known and accepted locally and is considered to be a good sign for the city of Naples and its region of Campania.  

In contrast, the failure of the blood to liquefy is believed to signal war, famine, disease, or other disasters.

 

“Mi raccomando state a distanza tutti quanti…mi raccomando. Abbiate pazienza.”?
“E quindi…va bene…Aspettiamo ?con fiducia il segno. Vi auguro buona giornata…”
Che bella voce, e che gentilezza Mons. De Gregorio!#sangennaro https://t.co/JVuV7FYMTo

— Sunny ?? se_vi_spinate_per_hobby_non_seguitemi (@Sunny77) December 16, 2020

 

But according to an Italian journalist, it is not very common for the miracle to take place on Dec. 16. The blood has liquefied most often on St. Januarius’ feast day of Sept. 19, and on the Saturday before the first Sunday of May.

Vatican journalist Francesco Antonio Grana told CNA that the liquefaction “almost never” happens on Dec. 16 and that in the last 34 years the number of times it has happened “can be counted on one hand.” 

The blood also did not liquefy in December 2016.

Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the archbishop emeritus of Naples, said Mass in the cathedral to mark the feast day.

When the miracle still did not occur, Sepe told those gathered, “we want to make an act of true and profound devotion to our St. Januarius, we are united in his name.”

“It is he who helps us to live, to bear witness to the faith, and even if the blood does not liquefy, it does not mean goodness knows what,” the cardinal continued. “The important thing is that we feel truly united, participating in this very special event which is our devotion to our patron saint.”

Sepe’s resignation as archbishop of Naples was accepted by Pope Francis on Saturday. The 77-year-old archbishop has led the important Italian archdiocese for 14 years.

The 57-year-old Bishop Domenico Battaglia, known as a “street priest” who is close to the poor, was named as his successor.

St. Januarius, or San Gennaro in Italian, is the patron saint of Naples. He was bishop of Benevento in the third century, and his bones and blood are preserved in the Naples cathedral as relics. He is believed to have been martyred during the Christian persecution of Emperor Diocletian.

When St. Januarius’ blood liquefied in September, Cardinal Sepe addressed a mostly empty cathedral, due to coronavirus restrictions. 

He announced that the blood had “completely liquefied, without any clots, which has happened in past years.”

The miracle also occurred in May, when Naples was under lockdown together with the rest of Italy.

Speaking after a livestreamed Mass at the cathedral May. 2, Sepe said: “I have a big announcement to make: even in this time of coronavirus, the Lord through the intercession of St. Januarius has liquefied the blood!” 

 

This story was updated at 12:32 p.m. Mountain Time to reflect the fact that St. Januarius’ blood had still failed to liquefy by the end of the day’s celebrations.


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