By Fr. Kevin Magner
This Wednesday is the Feast of St. Blaise, patron saint of throat illnesses. There is more known about the devotion to St. Blaise than there is about the man himself. There are only a few actual facts that we know about St. Blaise. It is known that he was a doctor and the bishop of Sebastea, which is located in modern-day Armenia. The first known record of the saint’s life comes from the medical writings of Aëtius Amidenus, where he is recorded as helping with patients suffering from objects stuck in their throat.
We also know that Bishop Blaise was martyred during a Christian persecution in his episcopal city of Sebastea in 316 AD. Beyond that, the stories of his life have a mostly legendary quality because his best-known biography, the Acts of St. Blaise, was not written until 400 years after his death.
One of the more familiar legends involves Blaise healing a boy with a fish bone stuck in his throat. Other legends are about wild animals coming to him to be cured of their wounds. Another story tells of a kind woman who brought him candles to dispel the darkness of the prison cell where he was being held. This last story could be the explanation of why crossed candles are used in the blessing of throats.
Whatever is fact and whatever is merely legend is not entirely important. What is more important is that St. Blaise is a saint that people have trusted for centuries to protect them from ailments of the throats. This trust is not centered on Blaise’s own ability but on the miraculous power given to him by God. Blaise must have been a man who truly believed in the words of St. Paul: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13)
The traditional blessing of throats on St. Blaise day will take place at St. John the Baptist after the 8:30 morning Mass and after the 5:30 evening Mass.
“Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, 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, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Have a blessed week!