Oil Dedicated to St Januarius (Martyr)
Naples, Italy, venerates as a protector the St Januarius, a native of the vicinity, who was bishop, it said, of Benevento. There is a portrait of him, wearing a halo, in the ancient Neapolitan Catacomb of St Januarius.
Far more known about the alleged blood of St. Januarius than about the martyr himself. Since at least A.D. 1389, this small mass of dark stuff in a transparent glass vial liquefies several days each year. It indeed a puzzling phenomenon.
The liquefaction takes place on the feast of San Gennaro (September 19) and during the eight succeeding days; also on the feast of the transfer of the saint’s relics (Saturday before the first Sunday of May) and during its octave; and on December 16, the anniversary of Naples’ escape from the eruption of Vesuvius in 1631. Often, however, nothing happens on December 16.
As recently as 1988 a team of scientists called in by Cardinal Michael Giordano, the archbishop of Naples, to have another go at it. In publishing the conclusions of its experiments, the chairman, Professor Pierluigi Bollone (who is also president of the International Center for study of the Shroud of Turin), declared that spectographic photos of the whole process proved definitely that the liquid was arterial human blood. “It’s a real miracle,” he said.
Cardinal Giordano’s announcement of the team’s consensus was more cautionary. “The official church allows the veneration of relics, but it has never issued a judgment–and never will–on the miraculous character of the liquefaction. The only miracles on which our faith is based are those of the Gospel.”
Yes, miracles are basically for the unbelieving. Those who believe can welcome them as confirmations of faith, but they do not need them.