Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr. Feast Day: February 3 Patron: Those suffering from Throat Ailments. Symbol: Crossed Candles, Iron Combs, A Cave with Wild Animals
by Catherine Fournier
Have you ever received a blessing? Maybe you get a blessing when you family receives Communion at Sunday Mass. Sometimes fathers bless their families every night before bed. There's special blessings for many different things. You can get your car blessed, or your home blessed. Every time, we are asking God to watch over us, protect us and give us graces and strengths to follow Him. A special blessing takes place on the feast day of Saint Blaise. On this day, people can have their throats blessed.
Saint Blaise was a bishop in Armenia in the early fourth century. Not much is known about him, but there are many legends and stories that tell us what the times were like. It was a time of persecution for the Catholic Church. The Roman empire was trying to get rid of the Christians. Many faithful were martyred because they would not give up their love and faith in Jesus Christ.
Saint Blaise received a message from God to go into the hills to escape the persecution. The Roman governor sent men to find him. While searching for Saint Blaise, the hunters discovered a cave that was full of sick wild animals. There was Saint Blaise in the middle, healing the animals! They captured him and took him back to the governor.
On the way, Saint Blaise rescued a poor woman's pig from a wolf. Other stories say that he cured a boy who had a fish bone stuck in this throat and was choking to death. It is because of this miraculous healing that he is considered to be the patron of throat ailments. After suffering various forms of torture, Saint Blaise was beheaded. Seven women were martyred at the same time.
Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, devoted the early years of his life to the study of philosophy and became a physician. Then, receiving a call from God, he was ordained to the priesthood and made Bishop of Sebaste in Armenia.
At about this time, a new persecution of Christians began under the reign of Licinius. Saint Blaise was told in a message from God to go into the hills to escape this persecution, so that he might minister to the flock. Saint Blaise went into the mountains and took refuge in a cave.
The governor of the region, called Agricolaus, sent men into the hills to hunt Saint Blaise. When these hunters came across the cave, they found it surrounded by wild animals, all suffering from illnesses. Saint Blaise moved about them, healing the animals, and unharmed by them.
The hunters seized Saint Blaise and took him back to the governor. Along the way, Saint Blaise continued to perform miracles. He cured a woman's son, who was choking to death on a fish bone. He persuaded a wild wolf to release a poor woman's pig. In gratitude, this woman followed Saint Blaise and brought him candles and food while he was imprisoned.
Finally, Saint Blaise was ordered executed by the governor, and was beheaded along with seven Christian women. The Roman Catholic date of his feast day is February 3rd, while in the Eastern rite, his feast is celebrated on February 11th. Because of the miracles he performed, devotions to Saint Blaise for healing of throat ailments grew through the centuries and are still performed today.
There is a group of fourteen saints known as the 'Fourteen Auxiliary Saints' (or Holy Helpers). During times of illness or death, mankind turns to God with prayers and petitions. This was especially true during the 14th century when a plague epidemic caused sudden and painful death throughout Europe. Because death occurred so suddenly, many people missed receiving the final sacraments. In fear, the living sought the intercession of saints known individually for helping with different symptoms of the plague. (Legend has the parents of Saint Nicholas dying from the plague). Thus devotion was established to a group known as the Holy Helpers. Saint Blaise, as the patron of those suffering from throat ailments, is one of these Fourteen Holy Helpers.
Though there are few details available of the life of Saint Blaise, and he does not appear in martyrologies until the ninth century, it is agreed that Saint Blaise was the Bishop of Sebaste during the period of persecution of Licinius, the early fourth century.
According to legend, Saint Blaise was a physician at Sebaste before he became a priest and was raised to the episcopal see. When the persecutions of Christains began, Blaise took refuge in the hills. He was discovered living in a cave, by men who had been sent to hunt him under order of the governor. Legend states that when he was found, he was surrounded by sick wild beasts whom he was curing.
While in prison awaiting trial and torture, Saint Blaise performed a miraculous cure of a young boy who was choking to death on a fish bone. After suffering various forms of torture, (some illustrations show him being pierced with iron combs) Saint Blaise was beheaded.
In the holy wars, his relics were dispersed over Europe and his veneration was increased by many miraculous cures, especially of sore or diseased throats. He is the principal patron of Ragusa. Perhaps because of his great popularity or because of the iron combs by which it was said to have been tortured, this celebrated martyr is also the patron of woolcombers.
He is represented holding two candles in his hand (used for the blessing of throats) or in a cave surrounded by wild animals, as he was found by the governor's men.
Prayer: Saint Blaise, pray for us that we may not suffer from illnesses of the throat and pray that all who are suffering be healed by God's love.
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