Failure historically portends impending disaster…
NOT THIS TIME: Italians Alarmed as St. Januarius’ Blood Fails to Liquefy
UPDATE 22-DEC-16 14:10 UTC:
Supervolcano Campi Flegrei near Naples showing signs it could erupt (click)
UPDATE 19-DEC-16 21:09 UTC:
Video of Miracle Non-Occurrence added to end of post (scroll down)
In the very early fourth century, Saint Januarius, bishop of Beneventum in Italy, died a martyr during the bloody persecution of Emperor Diocletian. A relic of his dried blood has been preserved to this day and is kept in the cathedral of the diocese of Napoli (Naples), whose patron saint he is. On three separate occasions each year, the blood liquefies on its own in what appears to be a miracle: on the Saturday before the first Sunday in May; on September 19, which is the feast of St. Januarius; and on December 16. When on rare occasions the blood fails to liquefy, this has historically been the harbinger of impending calamity. This past Friday, on December 16, 2016 — for the first time in over 36 years — the blood did not liquefy.
Radio Vatikan, the German-speaking branch of Vatican Radio, reports as follows:
For the first time in more than three decades the so-called blood miracle did not take place in Naples. The dried blood of St. Januarius did not liquefy in the city’s cathedral, according to reports by Italian media (on Saturday). Neapolitans consider the non-occurrence of the miracle to be a bad omen. The guardian of the reliquary, Mgr. Vincenzo de Gregorio, urged the faithful waiting in the cathedral not to panic. “We must not think of catastrophes or disasters”, the churchman said. He called on them to keep praying.
According to the tradition, the city patron’s coagulated blood, which is kept in a glass vial, has turned liquid every December 16 for centuries. December 16 marks the commemoration of a warning before the eruption of Vesuvius in 1631. Other days [when the blood liquefies] are the saint and early Christian martyr’s feast day, September 19, as well as the Saturday before the first Sunday in May. On September 19 of this year, the miracle had once again taken place on time.
The last time the miracle failed to occur was 1980. The citizens of Naples associated this with the earthquake of Irpinia, when 2,900 people died in the worst natural disaster in Italian post-war history [i.e. since 1945]. Prior to that, it was in 1973 when Neapolitans waited in vain for the blood to liquefy. That year, Naples was visited by a cholera epidemic.
Attempts have been made to provide a natural explanation for the phenomenon of liquefaction, which [attempts], however, are not universally accepted. According to the tradition, Januarius (“San Gennaro” in Italian) was beheaded during the time of Christian persecution under the Roman emperor Diocletian, on September 19, 305.
(“Italien: Blutwunder in Neapel ausgeblieben”, Radio Vatikan, Dec. 17, 2016; our translation.)
This year, Italy had already been rattled by a number of earthquakes, centered around Norcia (Nursia), the birthplace of St. Benedict, the father of Western monasticism. The last such earthquake destroyed the basilica built over the spot where the saint and his twin sister, St. Scholastica, are believed to have been born.
The earthquake of November 23, 1980 — the year when the dried blood of St. Januarius had failed to liquefy on September 19 — was devastating, as the following links show:
- Earthquake in Irpinia, Italy, 1980 (Video)
- The Shock that Changed Italy (Video)
- Nov. 23, 1980: Southern Italy Rocked by Earthquake (This Day in History)
Just a few months ago, Naples was added to the list of cities at risk from being affected by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which is considered to be the world’s most dangerous volcano. Since December 16 is historically tied to St. Januarius and the volcanic outbreak of Vesuvius in 1631, as mentioned in the news report above, the failure of the blood miracle to occur on this very day this year may indeed be a bad omen for the city.
As far as the ceremony surrounding the habitual liquefaction of the saint’s blood is concerned, the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia describes what transpires as follows:
What actually takes place may be thus briefly described: in a silver reliquary, which in form and size somewhat suggests a small carriage lamp, two phials are enclosed. The lesser of these contains only traces of blood and need not concern us here. The larger, which is a little flagon-shaped flask four inches in height and about two and a quarter inches in diameter, is normally rather more than half full of a dark and solid mass, absolutely opaque when held up to the light, and showing no displacement when the reliquary is turned upside down. Both flasks seem to be so fixed in the lantern cavity of the reliquaryby means of some hard gummy substance that they are hermetically sealed. Moreover, owing to the fact that the dark mass in the flask is protected by two thicknesses of glass it is presumably but little affected by the temperature of the surrounding air. Eighteen times in each year, i.e. (1) on the Saturday before the first Sunday in May and the eight following days, (2) on the feast of St. Januarius (19 Sept.) and during the octave, and (3) on 16 December, a silver bust believed to contain the head of St. Januarius is exposed upon the altar, and the reliquary just described is brought out and held by the officiant in view of the assembly. Prayers are said by the people, begging that the miracle may take place, while a group of poor women, known as the “zie di San Gennaro” (aunts of St. Januarius), make themselves specially conspicuous by the fervour, and sometimes, when the miracle is delayed, by the extravagance, of their supplications.
The officiant usually holds the reliquary by its extremities, without touching the glass, and from time to time turns it upside down to note whether any movement is perceptible in the dark mass enclosed in the phial. After an interval of varying duration, usually not less than two minutes or more than an hour, the mass is gradually seen to detach itself from the sides of the phial, to become liquid and of a more or less ruby tint, and in some instances to froth and bubble up, increasing in volume. The officiant then announces, “Il miracolo é fatto”, a Te Deum is sung, and the reliquary containing the liquefiedblood is brought to the altar rail that the faithful may venerate it by kissing the containing vessel. Rarely has the liquefaction failed to take place in the expositions of May or September, but in that of 16 December the mass remains solid more frequently than not.
(The Catholic Encylopedia, s.v. “St. Januarius”)
For what it’s worth, this year December 16 marked also the day prior to blasphemous Antipope Francis‘ 80th birthday.
Speaking of Francis, there was a freak occurrence involving the blood of St. Januarius on March 21, 2015, the feast of St. Benedict, while “Pope” Francis visited the cathedral of Naples and kissed the relic: The dried blood liquefied unexpectedly but only partially, which, having been noted by “Archbishop” Crescenzio Sepe, caused Francis to exclaim: “The bishop just announced that the blood half-liquefied. We can see the saint only half loves us.” Some media outlets later reported, tongue-in-cheek, that Francis had performed “half a miracle”:
- Blood of St Januarius liquefies during Francis’s visit to Naples (Catholic Herald)
- Pope Blood ‘Half-Miracle’: Pontiff’s Kiss Partially Liquifies Dried Sample (Newsmax)
- Neapolitan bishop claims ‘half miracle’ while pope is in town (Reuters)
A video of the entire ceremony at Naples cathedral on March 21, 2015, including the “half-miracle” towards the end, can be viewed at this link.
On a side note, we recall that this is the same Francis who habitually refuses to genuflect or kneel before what he believes to be the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us pray to St. Januarius that, whatever the non-occurrence of the blood miracle may mean, people will finally reject Francis’ claim to the papacy and convert to the true Catholic Faith of the ages.
UPDATE 19-DEC-16 21:09 UTC:
Video of the non-occurrence of the miracle at Naples Cathedral is now available: