Thursday, February 4, 2010

St. Blaise and the Blessings of the Throat

Yesterday was the feast day of St. Blaise, patron saint of throats and other ailments of the head and neck.  Each year in my parish, we process forward to the alter after Holy Mass to receive the "blessing of the throat" in the name of St. Blaise.   I decided to check a little further into the story of this saint and discovered that, much to my delight, he is very much like St. Francis or the Celtic saint, St. Kevin.  Like them, he was honored by the animals in the surrounding area near the cave where St. Blaise lived during the time of Diocletian's persecution of Christians during the 3rd century A.D.  Animals and birds would come to feed from his hand and offered him protection in times of trouble.  Blaise lived as a hermit for many years and then was made Bishop of the Church during the Diocletian persecution. 

Many legends grew up around the figure of St. Blaise, mostly pertaining to persecutions he suffered at the hands of a government prefect who chained St. Blaise in jail for not worshipping the gods of the region (Cappadocia). One story tells of St. Blaise being thrown into a pond which immediately became firm ground under his feet.  He beckoned those who were jeering on the shore to come and walk on the water if they were able.  All jumped in and were immediately drowned.

Perhaps the best known legend of St. Blaise and the one that gives rise to the "blessings of the throat" comes from the story of a woman who son was choking on a fish bone.  She summoned Bishop Blaise and asked him to heal her son.  Bishop Blaise laid hands on the boy, prayed that he would be healed and he immediately was. Thereafter, his name has been invoked for throat troubles.  Ironically, I suppose, St. Blaise was beheaded in or around the year 283.

As a person who suffers from asthma and other respiratory issues, I guess I have a fondness for St. Blaise. I look forward to the "blessings of the throat" each February and pray that by his intercession, I will find comfort and relief from my asthma.  It is so good to know that the Lord has given us saints to intercede for us in all manner of problems and difficulties; some with such specific intentions as St. Blaise.

If you have a chance to receive a "blessing of the throat" this weekend at your parish, remember these stories and ask St. Blaise for a special intercession for someone you may know who needs healing and deliverance.

If you want to know more about St. Blaise or any other Saint, you can find much in the two volume work of Jacobus de Voragine entitled The Golden Legend, published by Princeton University Press.

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