St. Januarius, born about 275, was Bishop of Benevento when the persecution of Diocletian broke out. Sosius, deacon of Misenum; Proculus, deacon of Puzzuoli; Euthyches and Acutius, eminent laymen, were imprisoned for the faith at Puzzuoli, by order of Dracontius, Governor of Campania. St. Januarius, who was a special friend of Sosoius, hearing of this, determined to pay the confessors a visit, in order to encourage them.
The keepers, being aroused to suspicion, gave information that an eminent person from Benevento had visited the prisoners. Timothy, who had succeeded Dracontius, gave orders that St. Januarius should be brought before him at Nola, the usual place of his residence. Festus, his deacon, and Desiderius, a lector of his church, were also apprehended and they shared in his sufferings.
Some time after, when the Governor went to Puzzuoli, the three confessors, loaded with irons, were made to walk before his chariot to that town, where they were thrown into the same prison in which the four other Martyrs were detained. They had been condemned, by an order of the Emperor, to be torn to pieces by wild beasts. The day after the arrival of St. Januarius, they were all exposed in the amphitheater, but none of the animals touched them. The people imputed this to magic and the Martyrs were condemned to be beheaded, the sentence was executed near Puzzuoli, about 305. The relics of St. Januarius were later translated to Naples, of which city he became tha Patron.
St. Januarius has become famous for the liquefaction of his blood, a dark solid mass in a sealed vial, which becomes liquid when held near relic, believed to be his head. This usually happens on September 19, the first Sunday of May (the day of the transferal of his relics to Naples), and on December 16 (the anniversary of Naples’ deliverance from Vesuvius through the intercession of St. Januarius).
Scientists have for a long time been seeking a natural explanation for this well-attested phenomenon but have never been successful in their quest.
PRAYER: God, You enable us to celebrate the memorial of Your Martyr, St. Januarius. Grant that we may also enjoy his company in eternal beatitude. Amen.