When looking for predictions on what to expect next year, some people turn to the writings of Nostradamus and Baba Vanga. Others turn to economists or Magic 8-Balls (same thing?). In Naples, Italy, many rely on St. Januarius – or more specifically, his dried blood. Every year on December 16th, a local Catholic leader removes a tiny vial purported to be the blood of this 3rd century martyr from its protective chamber in the Royal Chapel of the Naples Cathedral … and, with the anxious throngs assembled in the church and more watching online and on closed-circuit TV, waits. If the blood liquefies, all is good until the first Sunday of May (this ’miracle’ is said to happen three times annually – also in September). And if it doesn’t? Legend has it previous failures to liquefy preceded 22 epidemics, 11 revolutions, three droughts, 14 archbishops’ deaths (within a 30-day period), nine dead popes (within a few weeks), four wars, 19 earthquakes, and three religious persecutions. Oh, and it also failed to liquefy on December 16, 2019. Did anything bad happen shortly after that?
“When we took the reliquary from the safe, the blood was absolutely solid and remains absolutely solid. It does not give any sign, not even a little drop, as sometimes falls. It’s alright, we will await the sign with faith.”
Fr. Vincenzo de Gregorio, abbot of the Chapel of St. Januarius, delivered the bad news late in the day on December 16, 2020. He even waited as long as he could, hoping the day would end with a Hail Mary touchdown liquefication. It didn’t. Was this a bad sign? Is 2020 going to go out worse than it came in – after another non-liquefication?
The Catholic Church does not recognize this blood liquefication as a verified ‘miracle (nor the liquefications of the blood of Saint Patricia, St John the Baptist, Saint Pantaleon and 20 others) even though Pope Francis allegedly witnessed it in person in 2015. Meanwhile, liquefication-busters have recreated the event using a thixotropic gel that changes viscosity when shaken, a suspension of hydrated iron oxide which looks like dried blood, and a red waxy substance that melts when held tightly for a short time.
As with other predictions, it’s easy to link the times of non-liquefication of St Januarius’ blood to tragic events which coincidentally happen shortly before or after, but it’s impossible to prove a direct correlation. The same is true for the alleged good news associated with the liquefication – it liquefied in May 2020 while Naples was in coronavirus lockdown and in September when Naples and most of the world were seeing increases in cases and deaths. Was there any good news?
If 2020 gets worse, can we blame St. Januarius? Just days before he said the Mass and oversaw the non-liquefication, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the archbishop emeritus of Naples, turned in his resignation to Pope Francis. Did he see this coming and not want his name tied to it? The Catholic News Agency reports he was pretty excited after the May and September liquefications – maybe he’s tired of being wrong. Perhaps he should have become an economist – they never tire of it.
Should we be worried? Those who say things couldn’t get any worse should remember that this has been said all year. Do people disappointed by Nostrodamus’ predictions last year write him off for good? Do owners of Magic 8-balls fling them violently against the wall … or do they give them one more chance?
See you in May.