When it comes to giving us views of the future, there are psychics, there are time travelers … and there’s the blood of St. Januarius. The solidified blood of the patron saint of Naples, Italy, is kept in two vials a reliquary (a container for relics) locked in a bank vault and taken out three times a year for possible liquification – September 19, the saint’s feast day, the first Saturday of May, and December 16, the anniversary of the 1631 eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Right on schedule – there were throngs of people at the Monastery of Santa Chiara where it’s taken in a procession – the solidified blood of St. Januarius was displayed. And?
“The blood of St. Januarius, patron of the Italian city of Naples, remained solid on Thursday morning, so far failing to liquefy in December for the second consecutive year.”
But … but … but … your headline!
We’ll explain after some historical context. Januarius was Bishop of Benevento in the 3rd century, he was either fed to wild bears or beheaded for his Christian beliefs, his blood was allegedly saved by a woman named Eusebia, and the legend of it liquefying as a sign of good things ahead was first recorded in 1389. Since then, detailed records have been kept of tragic events that happened when there was no liquification — epidemics, revolutions, droughts, archbishops’ deaths, popes’ deaths, world wars, earthquakes and more. FYI – it did not liquefy on December 16, 2020.
There have also been good things attributed to the flowing of the blood, and popes have come to witness (or not witness it, including Pope Pius IX in 1848 (yes), John Paul II in 1979 (no), Benedict XVI in 2007 (no) and Pope Francis in 2015, who allegedly saw it liquefy on an off day. Despite that, the event is not considered to be an official church ‘miracle’, and scientific investigations indicate whatever is in the vials seems to liquify when shaken or held in a warm hand.
“After an entire day of prayers and the constant intonation of the ancient song of the ‘relatives’ of St. Januarius, who since this morning have invoked the dissolution of the solid blood clot, the miracle of St. Januarius took place at 5:59 p.m. today.”
And it occasionally takes a while to liquify. After announcing that it failed to liquefy, the National Catholic Register and other media sources announced that the “dissolution” finally took place just before 6 pm after a full day of waiting … although with six more hours to spare – good news for a new year that could definitely use some help.
In fact, December liquefications are very unusual, according to Vatican journalist Francesco Antonio Grana — in the last 34 years the number of times it has happened “can be counted on one hand.” Even more rare — three liquefications in the same year, which was the case for 2021. And the year still turned out bad?
It’s important to note that these types of “miraculous” liquefications have been common around the Christian world for centuries and are often proven to be nothing more than tricks by alchemists. It’s nearly impossible to prove the liquification, or even trace it blood to the actual saint or martyr it allegedly came from. Nonetheless, it hasn’t deterred believers from flocking to Naples thrice yearly for a prediction from St. Januarius.
No matter what the saint says, it’s still a good idea to vote or check with your doctor or marriage counselor about your problems.