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Armed with God-given power, the miracle-working hand of St. Francis Xavier Bianchi (1743-1815) of the Barnabite order triumphed over the destructive power of Vesuvius. In 1804, the volcano awoke with a fury like a hungry beast. From May to August, huge clouds of smoke rose from it. Then, at sunset on November 22, an earthquake shook the earth with long, dark rumblings. Streams of lava covered the hills around the town of Torre del Greco.
Stopping lava in God’s name
Fr. Francis Bianchi was in Torre del Greco as a guest of the retreat house. When the danger was at its greatest, the saint prayed. He was surprised to see the residents running around trying to save what they could. So, he came out of his room, serenely asked everyone to remain calm, and ordered them to place the image of Sr. Mary Francis of the Five Wounds on the roof.
He climbed to the terrace at the top of the house with all the other people, and joined his hands in prayer. Then, he raised his right hand and, in the name of God, ordered the lava to stop flowing. Everyone was amazed to see the lava stop immediately: Torre del Greco was safe!
He worked an identical miracle on two other occasions in 1805. Again at Torre del Greco, the saint asked to be led to the place where the lava was flowing. He prayed with all the people, raised his hand in blessing, and the flow stopped and the lava turned into hard stone.
Then, there was another eruption, and people came to Portici to beg the saint for help. St. Francis Xavier didn’t waver. He took the image of Sr. Mary Francis of the Five Wounds and ordered the people to place it in front of the oncoming flow. They did so, and the lava—which had already reached the house—stopped in front of the image, which was hanging on a tree.
To commemorate this miracle, Cardinal Guglielmo Sanfelice had a chapel built on the site and dedicated it to the saint.
The fall of Napoleon
St. Francis Xavier Bianchi also predicted the fall of Napoleon. On July 6, 1809, Pope Pius VII was forced to leave Rome. At that time, St. Francis Xavier said to his distraught friends, “We are to regard everything that happens as a rolled-up scroll in which God’s great plans are both written and hidden. Let us obediently accept God’s will, looking forward to better times to come.”
Indeed, Napoleon’s lucky star was about to go out, and God allowed the saint to foresee the emperor’s ruin. On September 14, 1812, Napoleon entered the burning Moscow: he was falling into a trap. However, an order came from Paris for all European capitals to sing the Te Deum. When the saint heard about it, he commented bitterly: “They would have done much better if they had sung the Miserere!”
In the days that followed, he often exclaimed: “How terrible, how terrible! Poor young men!” On November 23, 1812 (before the official retreat began), he assured his friends that the French army had been defeated and even prayed for the tyrant.
During his life, St. Francis Xavier Bianchi, the Apostle of Naples, used to bless people who came to him with this characteristic blessing, with which he now blesses us from Heaven.
May the Lord God look upon you and bless you, may He turn his Divine Face toward you, grant you peace, liberate you from sin, make you grow in His love and bestow upon you the great gift of holy final perseverance. Amen