Back in the days of the Roman persecutions of the early Church, the bishop of Naples was a man named Januarius, or, as they say in modern Italian, Gennaro. After his death by martyrdom, a vial of his blood was saved by the devout Catholics of that area, along with his head. Now, each year on this date—September 19, the anniversary of his death—the reliquaries containing his head and his blood are brought close together in a special ceremony in the cathedral of Naples. The blood, which is ordinarily a solid mass of very dark red coagulated blood, turns a bright red, liquefies, and becomes frothy like fresh blood. The Neapolitans take this as a sign that the nearby volcano, Vesuvius, will not inflict any harm upon them either by eruption or earthquake in the near future.
My vacation begins tomorrow, and will bring me, according to our travel plans, to the area around Naples. I hope that San Gennaro’s blood liquefied today and that Vesuvius will behave itself while we are there. I look forward to visiting the basilica of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in the modern town of Pompeii. The ancient Pompeii was totally engulfed by lava and ash during the eruption of the year 79 A.D. But a modern town has grown up next to the excavated ruins, with a special shrine to Our Lady of the Rosary. It has an interesting history which I’ll recount to you on my return. I ask your prayers for the safety of my travel companions and myself, and I promise to pray for you along the way. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.