The Real Story Behind the Church’s Tradition of Blessing Throats
Image: Orta – Basilica San Giulio, Piedmont | Detail of a fresco showing Saint Catherine of Alexandria surrounded by Saints Sebastian, Rochus, James the Greater and Blaise | photo by Wolfgang Sauber
Saint of the Day for February 3
(d. c. 316)
Saint Blaise’s Story
We know more about the devotion to Saint Blaise by Christians around the world than we know about the saint himself. His feast is observed as a holy day in some Eastern Churches. In 1222, the Council of Oxford prohibited servile labor in England on Blaise’s feast day. The Germans and Slavs hold him in special honor, and for decades many United States Catholics have sought the annual Saint Blaise blessing for their throats.
We know that Bishop Blaise was martyred in his episcopal city of Sebastea, Armenia, in 316. The legendary Acts of St. Blaise were written 400 years later. According to them Blaise was a good bishop, working hard to encourage the spiritual and physical health of his people. Although the Edict of Toleration (311), granting freedom of worship in the Roman Empire, was already five years old, persecution still raged in Armenia. Blaise was apparently forced to flee to the back country. There he lived as a hermit in solitude and prayer, but he made friends with the wild animals. One day a group of hunters seeking wild animals for the amphitheater stumbled upon Blaise’s cave. They were first surprised and then frightened. The bishop was kneeling in prayer surrounded by patiently waiting wolves, lions and bears.
The legend has it that as the hunters hauled Blaise off to prison, a mother came with her young son who had a fish bone lodged in his throat. At Blaise’s command the child was able to cough up the bone.
Agricolaus, governor of Cappadocia, tried to persuade Blaise to sacrifice to pagan idols. The first time Blaise refused, he was beaten. The next time he was suspended from a tree and his flesh torn with iron combs or rakes. Finally, he was beheaded.
Four centuries give ample opportunity for fiction to creep in with fact. Who can be sure how accurate Blaise’s biographer was? But biographical details are not essential. Blaise is seen as one more example of the power those have who give themselves entirely to Jesus. As Jesus told his apostles at the Last Supper, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). With faith we can follow the lead of the Church in asking for Blaise’s protection.
Saint Blaise is the Patron Saint of:
English Wool Combers
Feast Day: January 24
Patron of: Animals, builders, choking, veterinarians, throats, infants, stonecutters, carvers, wool workers
Feast Day: February 03
St. Blase was an Armenian who came from a rich family and was given a Christian education. As a young man, Blase thought about all the sufferings and troubles in the world. He found that only spiritual joys can make a person really happy.
He became a priest and then bishop of Sebaste in Armenia which is now modern Turkey. Blase worked wholeheartedly to make his people holy and happy. He prayed and preached; he tried to help everyone.
Later he lived in a cave on Mount Argeus. He had the gift of healing and both men and animals were brought to him to be healed. According to legend, sick animals would come to him on their own for help, but would never disturb him at prayer.
When the governor, Licinius, began to harass the Christians, St. Blase was captured. He was sent to prison to be beheaded. On the way, people crowded the road to see their beloved bishop for the last time. He blessed them all, even the pagans.
A poor mother rushed up to him. She begged him to save her child who was choking to death from a fishbone. The saint whispered a prayer and blessed the child. He worked a miracle that saved the child’s life. That is why St. Blase is called upon by all who have throat diseases. On his feast day, we have our throats blessed. We ask him to protect us from all sicknesses of the throat.
In prison, the saintly bishop converted many non-believers. No torture could make Blaise give up his faith in Jesus. Thrown into a lake to drown, Blaise stood on the surface and invited his persecutors to walk out and prove the power of their gods; they drowned. When he returned to land, he was beheaded. Now St. Blase is with Jesus forever.
Reflection: Each of us experiences a need of healing in some area of our lives. Today, invite God to come into these places with the comfort of his presence.
Saturday, February 3
Liturgical Color: Green
Today is the optional memorial
of St. Blaisé, bishop and martyr.
St. Blaisé saved a child from
choking. In commemoration, we
have our throats blessed asking
God’s protection against choking
and other problems and
diseases of the throat.
Ordinary Time: February 3rd
Optional Memorial of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr; St. Ansgar, bishop
Meditation: Mark 6:30-34
Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr (Optional Memorial)
His heart was moved. . . . and he began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:34)
Jesus was encouraged because the apostles had just returned from a very successful missionary trip. They had healed some people, delivered others from demons, and brought many to conversion. But at the same time, Jesus was discouraged as well. He had just received news that John the Baptist, his friend and kinsman, had been beheaded by King Herod.
With this good and bad news on his mind, Jesus took a practical approach and invited the apostles to get away for a time of rest (Mark 6:31). He probably needed it as well. But a crowd of people followed, and Jesus changed his plans. Rather than settling in for some rest and rejuvenation, he threw himself into teaching the people. In a sense, you could say that the “practical” Jesus was replaced by the “compassionate” Jesus. He was able to look beyond his needs and the needs of his disciples to see the needs of so many other people—people who were in far greater need than he was.
It wasn’t just Jesus whose eyes were open in this way. The apostles gave up their plans for rest as well. Still, you can imagine how surprised they must have been when, after what could have been hours of teaching, Jesus told them to give the people something to eat (Mark 6:37).
Jesus wants us to be practical. He wants us to be ordered. He wants us to take care of ourselves and get the rest we need. But there are also times when he wants us to put our plans aside for the greater good.
We can learn how to sense these movements from God so that the practical doesn’t overshadow the compassionate and spontaneous. You may sense a prompting to speak to someone after Mass or in the grocery store. You may feel that God just wants you to hug your husband or child or that you should put aside what you are doing and read Scripture for a few minutes. Whenever something like this happens, try to act on it. You never know where it will lead you.
“Jesus, help me sense your Spirit’s promptings. I don’t want to be so regulated that I can’t hear your voice or follow your leadings. Lord, make me flexible and open!”
1 Kings 3:4-13
Marriage = One Man and One Woman Until Death Do Us Part
Daily Marriage Tip for February 3, 2018:
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child…when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.” (1 Cor 13:11) Reminisce about your respective childhoods. Name one childhood trait that serves you well and one childish trait that stresses your marriage.
Saturday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Father Alex Yeung, LC
The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are present here. You know me through and through, and despite my weaknesses, sins and imperfections you love me. Lord, thank you for your love. Today I give you my mind, my heart and my will. Mold me and use me as you wish.
Petition: Mary, obtain for me the grace to understand and live the Christian meaning of rest.
1. A Needed Rest: Jesus knows that his disciples need to rest after returning from a long stint of missionary work. There is a need to replenish energies — physical, mental and spiritual. It is within God’s will to put moments of physical rest into our daily programs. Jesus tells the apostles to get away together and with him. Physical rest, of course, is not laziness or dissipation. It is not a place to lose the spiritual tautness of our soul towards God and his things, or the readiness to do God’s will at all times.
2. Thinking About Others: Jesus teaches us that being ready to do God’s will in everything means also being always ready to serve others. How beautiful it is when families can relax together with each member not just selfishly thinking about myself, how much fun I can have, or making sure everyone obeys my whims! In a culture where “vacation” is synonymous with “loafing,” Jesus reminds us that for a Christian, relaxing and having fun are not incompatible with thinking about and serving others. Jesus’ compassionate heart was always active, and even with rest on his mind, he was moved to give himself to the people who needed to hear the Word of God. Is my heart like Christ’s? Am I aware of the physical and spiritual needs of my family and friends even on my “day off”?
3. Thinking About God: There is a deeper meaning to “rest”: turning all our activity to glorify God and expressing our loving dependence on him. He commanded us to set apart one day of the week to “rest” in him, to direct our hearts and minds to him, to offer him the fruits of our week’s work, and to receive his grace to begin another week. Sunday must be the highlight of a Christian’s week, not just because he finds respite from his work, but because he offers all his work –– and himself –– to God the Father during the communal celebration of Mass, the heart of Sunday. This God-centered focus is extended throughout the whole Sunday rest, where “daily concerns and tasks can find their proper perspective: the material things about which we worry give way to spiritual values; in a moment of encounter and less pressured exchange, we see the true face of the people with whom we live. Even the beauties of nature — too often marred by the desire to exploit, which turns against man himself — can be rediscovered and enjoyed to the full” (John Paul II, Dies Domini, 67).
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, help me to find my true rest in you. You are the source of all that is good. Help me to order all my work and material things towards spiritual values. Help me make Mass the heart of my Sunday. As well, help me use Sunday to see the true face of my family, friends, colleagues and clients: they are souls which you call me to love, serve, and bring closer to you.
Resolution: I will find some concrete way to prepare myself and my family for the celebration of Sunday Mass: reflecting on the Mass readings, organizing ourselves to arrive early to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, doing some service of charity like visiting the sick or elderly, etc.
One Bread, One Body
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|<< Saturday, February 3, 2018 >>
|1 Kings 3:4-13
|“Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart.” �1 Kings 3:9
Solomon asked for and received “a heart so wise and understanding that there [had] never been anyone like” him (1 Kgs 3:12). However, “when Solomon was old his wives had turned his heart to strange gods, and his heart was not entirely with the Lord, his God, as the heart of his father David had been” (1 Kgs 11:4). Solomon, the owner of what was the best heart in the world, suffered heart failure because of his sinfulness, especially idolatry.
On this first Saturday of the month, we think of Mary’s immaculate heart. Her heart was even better than Solomon’s, but she did not suffer heart failure. Rather, her heart was pierced many times, especially on Calvary, “so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare” (Lk 2:35). Through Mary’s faithful, suffering, immaculate heart, we can receive help in accepting her Son’s graces to resist temptations and thereby avoid heart failure. If our hearts have already failed, Mary is praying from her heart for our repentance.
Prevent or recover from a heart attack. Accept Mary as your mother (Jn 19:25ff) and intercessor (see Jn 2:5). “Guard your heart” (Prv 4:23).
Prayer: Sacred Heart of Jesus, make my heart like Yours (see Mt 11:29).
Promise: Jesus “pitied them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them at great length.” —Mk 6:34
Praise: St. Ansgar was born in France. However, zeal to evangelize led him to Germany, Denmark, and Scandinavia to spread the gospel.