"Through the intercession of St. Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, X and of the Holy Spirit"
(Book of Blessings #1633)
Two candles crossed and placed against the throat is what many of us remember from childhood. Who was the saint that we remember each year?
He was a bishop in Sebastea, Armenia, in the early part of the fourth century. He was martyred in AD 316. Even though Christianity was legalized by the Edict of Constantine in 311, religious persecution was still raging in Eastern Europe. As the myth is told, he had fled to the countryside and was living peacefully with the wild animals. Some hunters came upon his cave and found in kneeling in prayer with all the lions and wolves and other wild animals sitting by his side. The hunters bound him and took him to prison. On the way a woman presented her son to Bishop Blaise for him to heal him, he had a fish bone stuck in his throat. Upon Blaise's blessing, the boy coughed up the fish bone.
Bishop Blaise eventually was killed for not worshipping the pagan gods of the region, and the story of Bishop Blaise's healing of the young boy became legend. His saint day in the Roman Church is February 3 and on February 11 in the Eastern Church. Remember the faith of this saint each year and pray for blessings upon those who suffer from throat ailments. Moreover, always remember this blessing is a sign of our faith in God's protection and love for us and for the sick, and for those who need our prayers.
St. Blaise, Biagio in Italian, Blasco or Blas in Spanish, was a bishop of Sebaste, Armenia, in modern Turkey, who was martyred for witnessing to the faith. He was tortured and beheaded for his beliefs by the local Roman governor around AD 316. This is all that is known about him, the rest being legend. We know much more about devotion to and the popularity of St. Blaise than historical facts.
The special blessing of throats associated with St. Blaise is due to a miracle attributed to him. While in prison, he miraculously saved a boy choking on a fish bone. Early in the sixth century, evidence exists in the Eastern Church that Blaise was prayed to for aliments of the throat. To this day, his feast is a holy day in the Eastern Church. In the ninth century, veneration of St. Blaise came to the Western Church and became very popular. Blessing of the throats with crossed candles began in the 1500s, the height of devotion to St. Blaise, and that blessing is still part of the devotion of the Catholic Church.
No matter what the facts are, St. Blaise is a constant reminder to us of God's care and concern for us in our weakness, sickness, and limited human existence. God's healing touch is with us always. St. Blaise's celebration is one of the ways in which we highlight and thank God for that care and concern.
© 2011 Liturgical Publications Inc