Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Januarius and His Companions

Saint Januarius of NaplesArticle

The holy bishop, Saint Januarius, was a native of Benevento, a city in the Neapolitan territory. His parents, not less virtuous than of high lineage, gave him from his earliest youth, a most pious education, and he was so earnest in his endeavors to lead a blameless life, that the clergy and laity, after the death of their bishop, desired no other successor than Januarius. He alone opposed the election and could not be persuaded to consent, until obedience to the command of the Pope forced him to yield. Great as had been the struggle it had cost the holy man to accept the high dignity conferred upon him, he was equally zealous and untiring in discharging his duties when installed into his see. At that period, the tyrants Dioclesian and Maximian raged against the Faithful, endeavoring to destroy all Christendom. The holy bishop, therefore, used all his powers to strengthen his flock in the true faith and to encourage them to allow neither torments nor death to make them forsake their God.

The teachings the holy bishop gave to others he exemplified in his own life, thus showing to his flock how to endure martyrdom. Timotheus, the Governor of Campania, received orders to force the Christians to worship the gods, or, not succeeding in this, to execute them. He resolved to begin with Saint Januarius, whose zeal for the Christian faith was everywhere known. Hence the Saint was taken prisoner and presented, at Nola, to the Governor, who, making him acquainted with the imperial mandate, commanded him to obey it. Januarius, however, assured him that he would much rather die than be faithless to the true God, and by worshipping idols, become a servant of Satan. Hardly had he made this declaration, when Timotheus ordered him to be cast into a burning furnace. But it pleased the Almighty to renew the miracle which He had formerly wrought on the three youths in the furnace of Babylon. Januarius remained unharmed, and praised the only true God of heaven and earth. When the tyrant saw that not even a hair on the head of the bishop was burned, he foamed w’ith rage, and had him stretched upon the rack, and his limbs so cruelly torn, that afterwards the holy martyr could not move one of them. Dragging him to prison they thought he would expire. The Almighty, however, to spare him for still greater tortures, gave him, after a short prayer, the full use of his limbs, to the great astonishment of the tyrant. As the latter had to set out for Puteoli, the holy bishop had to run like a horse before his chariot and was most shamefully treated by the servants. To the same indignity two deacons were condemned w r ho had visited him in his prison At Puteoli, all three were cast into a dungeon, where they found two other deacons and two laymen, to whom it had already been announced that they should be given to wild beasts. The same sentence was passed upon the holy bishop and his two companions. Hence, they were all seven brought into the amphitheatre, and the wild beasts let loose upon them. The omnipotence of God, who had taken from the fire the power to burn, now also took from the wild beasts the instinct to devour. They looked at the confessors of Christ, and without in the least harming them, lay down at their feet. Timotheus ascribed this, after the manner of the pagans, to witchcraft, and unwilling to be conquered, h: commanded them to be beheaded. No sooner had he given the order, than God punished him with blindness. Januarius taking pity on him, after a short prayer, restored his sight Awed by this, as well as by the foregoing miracles, a great many of the spectators were converted to Christ. The godless Governor alone remained insensible, and fearing the displeasure of the emperor, he dared, not countermand his order but had the Saint and his companions beheaded.

The body of the Saint was first brought to Benevento, but later to Naples, where it is held in great veneration on account of the protection, which, by the intercession of Saint Januarius, the city enjoys from the eruptions of Mount. Vesuvius. It has happened several times that when the relics of the Saint were carried in solemn procession, towards the burning waves of lava which was ejected by this mountain and came rolling onwards to destroy the city, the eruption ceased and Naples was saved. To this day, the blood of the Saint is preserved at Naples, in a glass vial. The blood is congealed; but when placed near the head of the Saint, it melts and bubbles up. This miracle, which has continued until the present time, has been witnessed by many, both Catholics and non-Catholics, and although several of the latter have ascribed it to deceit, it is impossible for them to prove their assertion.

Practical Considerations

Saint Januarius preferred to be cast into a burning furnace rather than offend God by worshipping an idol. Saint Cyprian would rather give his life a thousand times than draw upon himself the wrath of the Almighty by sacrificing to the false gods. Both acted wisely; for if they had worshipped the idols they would have committed great sin. If they had died in it, Saint Cyprian would not only have lost his temporal, but also his eternal life for evermore; while Saint Januarius would have been cast into a much more terrible furnace without any hope of ever being released from its torments. You act in truth very foolishly by committing a mortal sin, as you must be convinced that, if you die in it, nothing is more certain than that the fire of hell, eternal death, awaits you. You flatter yourself that you are not going to die in sin; but who can assure you of this? They also, who are already in hell, flattered themselves as you do, and yet they died in sin. May not the same happen to you? You must at least confess that, by becoming guilty of a mortal sin, you put yourself in danger of dying in it, and thus going to eternal destruction. Is not that folly enough? Still more apparent will your folly become when you consider why you place yourself in such terrible danger. Speak the truth: why do you do it? What benefit, what advantage do those sins bring you, for the sake of which you placed yourself in such imminent danger? Is it perhaps more than a momentary sensuality, a contemptible gain, a short pleasure? And on account of a momentary, contemptible, short sensuality, will you place yourself in danger of being eternally condemned? Is not that of all follies the greatest? What I request of you is that you would ponder well this point, and you will most certainly avoid all sin. “Consider it well,” says Saint Chrysostom, “quickly pass the pleasures; eternally remain the pains.”

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Januarius and His Companions”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 6 May 2018. Web. 16 November 2018. <>