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  A Christian Faith Magazine February 2003, Volume 8, Issue 7  
Saint Blase
By Raymond Guido
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We celebrate the feast day of St. Blase on February 3. St. Blase was a bishop and martyr who lived long ago. He is the patron saint of wild animals, wool combers, and people who suffer from afflictions of the throat. St. Blase is included in the group of saints known as the Fourteen Holy Helpers. Devotion to the Fourteen Holy Helpers was popular in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, especially in Germany, as people prayed for recovery from diseases and spiritual strength when dying.

St Base
St. Base

Little is known as fact about St. Blase. Most of what we know about his life is based on legend, tales that have been passed on over time. This being said, it is believed that St. Blase was born in Armenia to wealthy, noble parents. When he was a boy, he was educated in the Christian faith and became the bishop of Sebaste in Armenia at a young age. When religious persecution came upon him, he retreated to the mountains where he lived with the wild animals. He was directed to a cave in these mountains by divine instruction. St. Blase often healed the animals that came to him when they were sick or wounded. This is why today he is also considered the patron saint of veterinarians. He lived a solitary life until one day when hunters looking for wild animals for the amphitheater took him captive. The men brought him to Agricolaus, the governor of Cappadocia and Lesser Armenia and he was sent to prison. The emperor at the time, Licinius, tortured St. Blase mercilessly with hooks and iron combs and eventually had him beheaded. The year of his death is said to be A.D. 316.

St Andrew Seal
"X" Shaped Cross

On St. Blase's feast day, one may have his or her throat blessed between two candles by a priest. This custom comes from a legend concerning St. Blase. It has been said that St. Blase once saved a young boy's life when he was choking on a fishbone stuck in his throat. The symbolism of the two candles comes from the legend that a poor woman whose pig had been saved from death through the intervention of St. Blase brought him food and wax tapers while he was in prison. When the priest gives the blessing, he places the two candles, which he holds in the shape of a St. Andrew's Cross ("X" shaped cross was used for St. Andrew's crucifixion) under the chin and against the throat. The blessing that the priest recites is as follows: "Through the intercession of St. Blase may God deliver you from ills of the throat and other ills."

Every year, my school honors St. Blase with this traditional blessing on his feast day. During lunchtime, the priests walk around my cafeteria and bless every student's throat. The students fully cooperate with this, and some assist the priests in gathering everybody together to receive the blessings. It seems an appropriate time of year to receive this blessing because during the winter months many of us are fighting a cold or a sore throat. In any case, we enjoy the tradition and hope it keeps us in good health.

Although there are few specific details about St. Blase's life, the little we do know about him is to be admired. He gave up everything that was comfortable to follow God's plan for him and led a simple life in harmony with nature caring for God's creatures. He endured horrific suffering at the hands of others because of his Christian beliefs. He had courage that most of us can only envy. It is fitting to remember St. Blase on his feast day and draw strength from his example and health from the traditional blessing.

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