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Saint Januarius, Martyr

Feast Day: September 19

Many centuries ago, St. Januarius died for the Faith under the persecution of Diocletian, and to this day God confirms the faith of His Church, and works a continual miracle, through the blood which Januarius shed for Him.

The saint was Bishop of Beneventum. During the persecution of the Christians under Diocletian and Maximian, Januarius, was brought before Timothy, president of Campania, at Nola, for the profession of the Christian faith. There his constancy was tried in various ways.

St. Januarius was cast into a burning furnace, but escaped unhurt, not even his garments or a hair of his head being injured by the flames. This enraged the president, who commanded the martyr’s body to be so stretched that all his joints and nerves were displaced.

Meanwhile Festus, his deacon, and Desiderius, a lector, were seized, loaded with chains, and dragged, together with the bishop [St. Januarius], before the president’s chariot to Pozzuolo. There they were cast into a dungeon, where they found the deacons Sosius of Misenum and Proculus of Pozzuolo, with Eutyches and Acutius — laymen all condemned to be thrown to wild beasts.

During his visit to Misenum, to see the Deacon Sosius, St. Januarius saw the head of Sosius, who was singing the Gospel in the church, girt with flames, and took this for a sign that before long Sosius would wear the crown of martyrdom. So it proved. Shortly after, Sosius was arrested and thrown into prison.

There St. Januarius visited and encouraged him, till the bishop was also arrested in turn. Soon the number of the confessors was swollen by some of the neighboring clergy.

The following day they were all exposed in the amphitheater; but the beasts, forgetting their natural ferocity, crouched at the feet of Januarius. Timothy, attributing this to magical arts, condemned the martyrs of Christ to be beheaded; but as he was pronouncing the sentence, he was suddenly struck blind.

However, at the prayer of St. Januarius he soon recovered his sight; on account of which miracle, about five thousand men embraced the faith. The ungrateful judge was in no way softened by the benefit conferred upon him; on the contrary, he was enraged by so many conversions; and, fearing the emperor’s edicts, he ordered the holy bishop and his companions to be beheaded.

Eager to secure, each for itself, a patron before God among these holy martyrs, the neighboring towns provided burial places for their bodies. In obedience to a warning from Heaven, the Neapolitans took the body of St. Januarius, and placed it first at Beneventum, then in the monastery of Monte Vergine, and finally in the principal church at Naples, where it became illustrious for many miracles. One of the most remarkable of these was the extinction of a fiery eruption of Mount Vesuvius, when the terrible flames threatened with destruction not only the neighborhood but even distant parts.

Another remarkable miracle is seen even to the present day, as the relics of St. Januarius rest in the cathedral of Naples, and it is there that the liquefaction of his blood occurs. The blood is congealed in two glass vials, but when it is brought near the martyr’s head it melts and flows like the blood of a living man.

Prayer: O holy martyrs, and thou especially, O Januarius, the leader no less by the courage than by the pontifical dignity, your present glory increases our longing for Heaven; your past combats animate us to fight the good fight; your continual miracles confirm us in the faith. Praise and gratitude are therefore due to you on this day of your triumph; and we pay this our debt in the joy of our hearts. In return, extend to us the protection, of which the fortunate cities placed under your powerful patronage are so justly proud. Defend those faithful towns against the assaults of the evil one. In compensation for the falling away of society at large, offer to Christ our King the growing faith of all who pay you honor.


Sources for this article were taken from the following books, available at www.fatimashoppe.org.

Lives of the Saints For Every Day In the Year, by Fr. Alban Butler

The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger, O.S.B.


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