Today Mother Church celebrates the feast of St. Blaise, one of the fourteen holy helpers. Seems I had a post about the holy helpers sometime before, but suffice it to say they are a group of saints invoked in defeating certain illnesses and for protection in certain circumstances, e.g. St. Christopher is invoked for those traveling.
Not a whole lot is really known of Blaise’s life, but there is one story that is the inspiration of the ceremony of the blessing of the throats, which we still do today.
This morning during Mass, right after the homily, we all went forward for a throat blessing.
The basic history of this sacramental of the Church is that, while in prison, Blase once saved a boy who had a fish bone stuck in his throat.
But we must consider what happened just before this. Blaise was a physician who was named bishop, just around the time of persecution by Lucinius (recall the conflict between Licinius and Constantine, when Licinius, refusing to follow the terms of the Edict, resumed the official practice of persuciting Christians.)
St. Blaise sought refuge and went to a cave, where animals from all over came to him. This is why he is known also as the patron of verternarians.
While in the cave, a couple hunters found him and decided to turn him in to the governor. On his way there, the story goes that Blaise saw a pig being attacked by a wolf. Blaise commanded the wolf to stop, and it did. The pig was unharmed, and its owner grateful.
The hunters continued to take him to the governor, and as soon as they arrived, the governor imprisoned Blaise and sentenced him to death.
The woman who owned the pig came and visited him, and gave him two candles so that, while in prison, he could still read the scriptures.
Hence, during the ceremony today, two candles are made into a cross and placed around one’s throat. At this moment, the priest or deacon prays: “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.”
It’s a rich tradition, and one that is good to keep in practice.
It’s good to invoke Blaise for physical throat problems, but many suggest it’s a wise thing to invoke him for spiritual problems associated with the mouth, also. Just read Sirach and you will see how much evil comes into the world by means of our mouths. Gossip, lies, profanity, etc. May the Lord be on our lips.
St. Blaise: Pray for us!