Ecclesiam res et talia sermocinamur -

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Friday, February 03, 2006

St. Blaise Day

Through the intercession of Saint Blase, 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.

Today is the feast of St. Blaise, patron of diseases of the throat and protection against wild animals. He was bishop of Sebaste in Armenia in the late 3rd/early 4th centuries. Apparently his episcopal duties were rather slight, as he lived as a hermit in a cave on Mount Argeus. He had been a physician before becoming bishop, and was renowned as a great healer, and the wild animals would come to him when injured.

He was arrested when discovered in prayer by the governor's huntsmen. While in prison, he miraculously saved a boy who was suffocating from a chicken bone that was lodged in his throat. It is reported that he was initially thrown into a lake to drown, but came to the surface and demanded that his executors walk out onto the lake to demonstrate the power of their gods -- they drowned. Dragged back to land, Blaise was flayed with iron wool combs, and then beheaded.

The tradition of blessing throats grew up on his feast because of his association with ailments of that body part, and has remained very popular throughout both the east and the west. I distinctly remember going to mass and being blessed with the crossed candles every St. Blaise day during gradeschool. The rubric for those blessings and the liturgy accompanying them is here.

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