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Happy Saint Januarius Day!!!

September 19, 2008

This is the day that we celebrate that venerable saint, Januarius. Januarius was the Bishop of Naples, where he is known as Saint Gennaro. Januarius is also the word for "January" in Latin. There was also a son of Saint Felicitas of Rome named Januarius. Felicitas is an interesting character as well, because he decided to up and move off to a different city to go to college because he had a crush on a guy named Ben. But it's not Felicitas' saint day, so we're going to push him to the side.

Old Jan is an interesting saint. Like most early saints, not much is known about his early life. However, he lived during the reign of Diocletian, who was a notorious assbag toward Christians living in the Roman Empire. This means that Januarius also died during the Diocletian reign in what has been called the Diocletian Persecution, the last and largest of the state-sponsored wholesale slaughter of Christians which lasted from 303 to 311 A.D. Strangely enough, Christianity became the state religion in Rome in 324 after Constantine saw the crosses in the clouds and declared Christianity a-ok with the Emperor (though when Constantine actually became a Christian is unknown and still debated--it is known, however, that he openly declared himself as such when he was 40).

At the tender age of 20, Januarius became the Bishop of Naples. During this time, he helped to hide Christians from their Roman overbears who simply wanted to gut, crucify, immolate, behead them--it is said that soccer was invented by a group of Praetorians who were kicking around a severed head. Januarius must have done a damned good job of hiding them, too, because they weren't found by the Roman soldiers, but suspicion about Januarius' nefarious activities followed him everywhere he went. Apparently, they followed him when he went to visit some of his friends who were incarcerated in a sulfur mine, and there Januarius was arrested and imprisoned.

To atone for his sins of helping the members of his church escape brutal persecution, Januarius was sentenced to die by being tossed into an oven and burned alive. However, Januarius--evidently the Chuck Norris of his day--kicked the door open to the oven and burst out, waving parts of his anatomy in the face of his captors as a friendly means of taunting. Slightly peeved that Januarius seemed to be made of asbestos, his captor dragged St. Jan to the Flavian Ampitheater at Pozzuoli where he was to be eaten by wild bears--or lions...the story reports both...perhaps it was bears AND lions (egads, death by the NFC North)--which had been purposefully starved for days so they'd be good and hungry. What better way to sate them than with slightly roasted Bishop? Medium rare, indeed. However, the bears--or lions--bowed down at his feet and started licking them.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me!" his captor screamed and decided to do it up right. He grabbed Januarius by the scruff of the neck and, well, separated it from his head, finally doing the young Bishop in. He was around 30 years old.

But wait, the story doesn't end there. As with many saints, his bones were dragged around the continent for a while before finally resting in Naples in 1497. Januarius is the Patron Saint of Naples. However, Naples has 50 Patron Saints. Apparently, though, he's the bestest of them all.

However, that's not where the story gets weird. Apparently, whilst Januarius was being beheaded, someone thought to scoop up his blood and keep it in various phials. Apparently, while his body was being dragged from city to city, someone thought to set one of these phials upon his coffin and, despite having solidified for nearly 1100 years, the blood suddenly turned liquid once more (first reported in 1389, when his body was in Beneventum, Italy but his head was in Naples). Apparently, this still goes on. This miracle is performed three times a year, on his feast day (today), December 16th to celebrate his patronage, and on the Saturday before the first Sunday in May, to celebrate his head's return to its body and the whole mess being laid to rest in a church in Naples. Word on the street is, in Little Italy, in Manhattan, the festival of Saint Gennaro (Januarius) is a big deal, and his statue is lugged through the streets and a big street fair erupts. Check it out if you're in New York this weekend.

Now, some people have claimed that Januarius' blood is nothing more than a thixotropic gel, which is a type of substance whose viscosity increases as it sits still but turns to liquid as it is shaken or stirred. An every day example of this is ketchup.

Because of this phenomenon with the blood, Januarius is considered the Patron Saint of blood banks as well as Naples. Also, he's the Patron Saint of Volcanos and Volcanic Eruptions. As to why, I'm as clueless as you. Maybe because he was arrested in a sulfur mine; that's a stretch, if you ask me. Anyway, if you find yourself running for your life away from a pyroclastic flow, remember to pray to Saint Januarius and hope like hell that his trick with the oven works for you, too.

Also, today is MelO's birthday. If you're an inconsiderate ass (like me), you didn't get her anything. Why not take this time to swing over to her site and wish her the happiest of happies. And bake her something chocolate, already!


Jidai said...

Saint Januarius is my new hero!

Lisa-tastrophies said...

I love it when you talk Catholic Saints to me.

This is awesome as I learned that I share my birthday with the date of patronage from Saint Januarius upon one of my favorite cities.

I did giggle and snort over "You've got to be fucking kidding me!" as it has become one of my favorite phrases at work lately... ah, the joys of teaching Juvenile Delinquents. :-)

***** Five Stars on the Blog

Chemgeek said...

I like stories.

BeckEye said...

They should call him Saint Badass.

I've never been to this Feast of San Gennaro, but I guess the big dealio isn't until next Saturday, so it's still possible that I could find out what all the fuss is about.

Will Shannon said...

Yes, that is a good dipping into the hagiography, there.

Apparently, there is a group of old ladies who sit at thr front of the church, and when the blood will not boil, they chant "Boil, Boil, Boil, Damn You, Boil!" I cannot for the life of me remember where I heard this.

If I had to pick who was the Chuck Norris of saints, merely because of all of the implausible/badass stuff attributed to him, I would have to go with Saint Christopher (incidentally, the name of our parish when I was growing up).