Each year on September 19th, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of St. Januarius, the patron saint of Naples, Italy. According to tradition, the blood of this martyred bishop from the 4th century decoagulates and returns to liquid form, visible within the reliquary that houses it. The miracle has routinely taken place since at least 1389, the first instance on record. The liquefaction process sometimes takes hours or even days, and sometimes it does not happen at all..local legend says that failure of the blood to liquify is a portend of impending war, disease, famine, or some other disaster. At the patron saint’s mass on the 19th, Neapolitan Archbishop Domenico Battaglia spoke of the miracle – both what it is, and what it is not.
“Every year we see firsthand how the witness of a man who generously gave his life for the Gospel, until his last breath, until his last drop of blood, is not something of the past, a historic event useful only to write about in some pages of a book,” the archbishop said. “No; it’s a testimony that is present, living, current, and capable of speaking to the heart of every believer, pushing him to more consistency, beyond courage, to a life of giving, steeped in sharing.”
As it turns out, St. Januarius’ blood did in fact liquify on his feast day this year. Speaking to the congregation after the relic was displayed, Archbishop Battaglia emphasized the saint’s blood is not a mere oracle or horoscope to consult, but rather a road sign that points us to the necessity of following the Gospel in a radical way. The relic of St. Januarius’ blood will remain on display for veneration in the Cathedral of Naples until September 26th in thanksgiving for the miracle.