Monday, June 25, 2012


Blaise of Sebaste BM

 (also known as Blase, Blasien, Blasius, Biagio)
St. Blaise

Feast day: February 3
 Died . 316.
As someone who loves to sing and suffers from frequent sore throats, I always look forward to the feast of Saint Blaise. Since the 16th century, the throats of the faithful are blessed on this day using the sacramental of two crossed or intertwined candles. I hope this is still customary in all Cathol ic churches. The reason for Blaise's patronage of throats is that he reportedly revived a boy who choked to death on a fishbone (in some versions he raised the already dead boy). The candles used during the blessing are derived from the candles brought to Blaise in prison by the grateful mother. (I also wonder if there is some significance to the candles that were blessed the day before at Candlemas--Feast of the Presentation--being used to bless?) In the acta of Saint Eustratius, who perished in 303 under Diocletian, it is said that Blaise received his relics, deposited them with those of Saint Orestes, and executed every article of his last will and testament. This is all that can be confirmed of Saint Blaise with any accuracy as there is no evidence of a cultus for Blaise prior to the 8th century. According to Blaise's legendary acta, which date no earlier than the 8th century, he was born into a rich and noble family, received a Christian education, and was consecrated a bishop of Sebaste, Cappadocia (now Armenia), while still quite young. Blaise was a physician in Sebaste, as well as bishop. As a doctor Blaise went into every home at all hours of the day and night, knew both the rich and the poor, comforted, cured, and advised them all. As a bishop, he did the same thing.

Saint Blaise confronting the Roman governor- scene from a stained glass window from the area of Soissons (Picardy, France), early 13th century.

 When the governor of Cappadocia and Lesser Armenia, Agricolaus, began persecuting Christians, Bishop Blaise of Sebastea hid in a cave where the wild beasts, including lions, tigers, and bears, tended him because he cared for them whenever they were hurt. His hiding place was discovered by hunters seeking animals for the amphitheatre, who observed him curing sick and wounded animals. Because the wild animals were so tame around him, they thought that Blaise was a wizard and wanted to present him as such to the governor.

 As he was being brought to Governor Agricolaus, a poor woman appealed for help because a wolf had taken her pig and Blaise persuaded the wolf to release the pig unharmed. Blaise was presented to the governor, who had him scourged and decided to starve Blaise to death in prison. But his plans were thwarted when the grateful woman secretly brought Blaise food and candles to dispel the darkness of his gloomy prison. When it was discovered that Blaise was still alive, the governor ordered soldiers to rake away the saint's skin with a woolcomb, and then Blaise was beheaded.

 This is only one version of Blaise's story. In another he is repeatedly tortured, but refuses to give in. He is thrown into a nearby lake, but the waters remain frozen like ice, unwilling to be an accomplice in the death of this holy man. So, he is finally killed by the sword. Canterbury claimed his relics, and at least four miracles were said to have occurred at his shrine, one dated 1451. Parson Woodforde described a solemn procession in his honor at Norwich on March 24, 1783

 Saint Blaise is the patron of wild animals (Coulson), physicians, sick cattle, wax-chandlers, and woolcombers. He is invoked against afflictions of the throat (Bentley, Roeder). Water with the blessing of Saint Blaise is also given to sick cattle (Farmer). As one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, Saint Blaise was much venerated throughout Central Europe.

The legend of his life that sprang up in the eighth century tell us that he was born in to a rich and noble family who raised him as a Christian. After becoming a bishop, a new persecution of Christians began. He received a message from God to go into the hills to escape persecution. Men hunting in the mountains discovered a cave surrounded by wild animals who were sick. Among them Blaise walked unafraid, curing them of their illnesses. Recognizing Blaise as a bishop, they captured him to take him back for trial. On the way back, he talked a wolf into releasing a pig that belonged to a poor woman. When Blaise was sentenced to be starved to death, the woman, in gratitude, sneaked into the prison with food and candles. Finally Blaise was killed by the governor.

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