Saint of the Day: St. Blaise, Bishop & Martyr – February 3
Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God protect you from all ailments of the throat and from all forms of evil. Amen.’ ~Blessing given on the feast of St.Blaise
St. Blaise was martyred for the faith around 316. That is all we actually know about him. However, his feast has been celebrated from the very early centuries. The Catholic Encylopedia and other scholarly sources reject the Acta or Deeds of the life of St. Blaise as history and regard them as legend. According to this old story, St. Blaise was bishop of Sebastea in Armenia and was tortured and executed under the persecution of Licinius after he had been discovered in the countryside. As he was being led off by his captors, a mother brought him a baby who was choking on a fish bone. St. Blaise prayed for the baby, who was immediately cured.
Consequently, St. Blaise has been associated with the relief of throat ailments, both physical and spiritual. (Spiritual aliments would include things like gossiping, coarse language and lying.) When I was a boy in the 1950s, this day was marked by the blessing of throats with crossed unlighted candles. For those of us who were altar boys, it took a little reminder that after the Last Gospel (the Prologue of St. John’s Gospel), the final blessing and the prayers for the conversion of Russia (they must have been heard after all), we had to return to the communion rail and accompany Father for the blessing of the throats. Like many of the Latin rituals, its beauty and the sweet beeswax smell of the new candles was somewhat marred by the rapid droning of the blessing and a certain assembly line efficiency, as we made several circuits of the communion rail.
As nice as it was, we never focused on his witness as bishop and martyr. There was just enough documentation to verify that St. Blaise was an historical figure and to spare him from the fate of St. Christopher, whose legend was quietly declared a myth. Everything else about St. Blaise is veiled in legend and the mists of time.