St Blaise (d. 316 AD)
Feast day: 3rd February
Patron Saint of Those With Throat Illnesses
Very little is actually known about St Blaise. What the New Roman Martyrology 2004 describes is that St Blaise was a bishop at Sebastea (now the modern day city of Sivas in central Turkey). He was persecuted by Agricola, the governor of Cappadocia during the reign of Emperor Licinius and martyred in 316 AD.
He is believed to have been a healer who eventually became a “physician of souls” and the first reference we have of him is actually in the medical journals of a court physician named Aëtius Amidenus, from the end of the fifth or beginning of the sixth century, where St Blaise is mentioned as being called upon for treating objects stuck in the throat.
Later, as bishop of Sebastea, St Blaise instructed his people as much by his example as by his words, and his virtue and sanctity were attested to by many miracles. From all parts, the people came flocking to him for the cure of bodily and spiritual ills.
Legend has it that while on the way to the jail after his arrest, a woman set her only son, who was choking to death on a fish bone, at his feet and St Blaise cured the child. Though this act amazed Agricola, he could not get Blaise to renounce his faith, and Agricola beat Blaise with a stick and tore at his flesh with iron combs before beheading him.
Another legend tells of how St Blaise came across a poor old woman whose pig had been stolen by a wolf on his way to the jail, and Blaise commanded the wolf to return the pig, which it did – alive and uninjured. In gratitude, the woman came to him and brought two fine wax candles in an attempt to dispel the gloom of his darkened cell.
These probably gave rise to the traditional blessing of throats on the feast day of St Blaise by using two candles (usually blessed on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord (“candlemas”)) that are held in a crossed position by a priest over the throats of the faithful.
Through the intercession of St Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver us from every disease of the throat and from every other illness, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
St Blaise, pray for us!
(The photo by Fr Lawrence Lew shows a statue of St Blaise from the Jesuit church in Pueblo, Mexico).