There are many miracles associated with saints, even long after they are gone from this life. Even the greatest of skeptics are welcome to witness and experience these phenomenon for themselves. For instance, the bodies of certain saints, called Incorruptibles, which are somehow miraculously preserved from natural decomposition centuries after their death, lie in glass coffins in churches around the world.
Other saints, such as San Gennaro (St. Januarius), the patron saint of Naples, Italy, manifest miracles through their blood. St. Gennaro was bishop of Benevento, Italy during the Diocletian persecution. Imprisoned and tortured for visiting imprisoned Christians, Gennaro was publicly beheaded in 305. The people of Naples wrapped his body and soaked up his blood. A woman named Eusebia preserved two glass phials. Centuries later, they transferred the remains and the phials of blood in a procession, to the catacombs of Naples. This was the first time the blood of the saint miraculously liquified.
Now preserved in the Naples Cathedral, the saint’s dried blood has been faithfully liquefying each year on the first Sunday in May, the saint’s feast day (September 19), and December 16 (commemorating the saint’s protection against the threatened eruption of the volcano at Vesuvius in 1631).
The miracle of the liquefication of the dried blood relic has only occurred one time in history, outside of the three yearly dates, and in the presence of a pontiff; Pope Pius IX in 1848.
Pope Francis visited the Cathedral in Naples on March 21, to address the diocesan priests and religious in the city’s cathedral. After kissing the glass reliquary, the Archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe examined the relic and proclaimed, “His blood has half-liquefied.” “It’s a sign that St. Gennaro loves the Pope, who is Neapolitan like us.”
This miraculous change in the relic is certainly not from the lack of Papal visits. In fact, the blood of St. Gennaro did not liquify in the presence of Pope John Paul II when he visited in 1979, nor when Benedict XVI visited in 2007.
The response of Pope Francis was just as we would expect it to be. The light-hearted pontiff simply made a joke, stating “The archbishop said the blood is half-liquefied. It means the saint loves us halfway. We all have to convert a little more so that he loves us more.”
What are we to make of a phenomenon such as this?
I believe it is an earthly reminder of our connection with our heavenly brothers and sisters who have gone before us. The saints are constantly praying for us, and their greatest desire is for us to share in the beatific vision, which they currently behold. Martyrs, such as St. Gennaro, who gave their lives for the Christian faith, are not only ancient stories, but rather present guides.
The Lord manifests His great and mighty presence to us through the ages, in many ways. Through the mouths of the prophets, and the examples of the saints. Our relationship with our God is a living and growing relationship, which is confirmed through many avenues. For the people of Naples, this was a beautiful sign of his presence.