February 3, 2017
Little is known about the life of Saint Blaise. He was a physician and a Bishop of Sebaste, Armenia. He lived in a cave on Mount Argeus and was a healer of men and animals. According to legend, sick animals would come to him on their own for help, but would never disturb him at prayer. Before Saint Francis of Assisi, he was the saint most frequently associated with animals and the natural world.
Agricola, governor of Cappadocia, came to Sebaste to persecute Christians. His huntsmen went into the forests of Argeus to find wild animals for the arena games, and found many waiting outside Blaise's cave. Discovered in prayer, Blaise was arrested, and Agricola tried to get him to recant his faith. While in prison, Blaise ministered to and healed fellow prisoners, including saving a child choking on a fish bone, which led to the blessing of throats on Blaise's feast day.
Thrown into a lake to drown, Blaise stood on the surface and calmly invited his persecutors to walk out and prove the power of their gods; they drowned. When he returned to land, he was martyred by being beaten, his flesh torn with wool combs (which led to his association with and patronage of those involved in the wool trade), and then, lastly, was born into eternal life with his beheading.
Blaise has been extremely popular for centuries in both the Eastern and Western Churches and many cures were attributed to him. In 1222 the Council of Oxford prohibited servile labour in England on his feast. He is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. He is invoked for all throat afflictions, and on his feast two candles are blessed with a prayer that God will free from all such afflictions and every ill all those who receive this blessing. Throughout the Middle Ages, Blaise was highly invoked for preservation from health ailments and protection from evil spirits.
In art he is sometimes portrayed as a bishop with a metal comb and a tall candle. St. Blase is the patron of physicians, sick cattle, wax-chandlers, woolcombers, and of wild animals because of his care for them and of those with throat maladies. Hear, O Lord, the supplications your people make under the patronage of the Martyr Saint Blaise, and grant that they may rejoice in peace in this present life, and find help for life eternal. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever Amen.
Adapted excerpt from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.