A resource for the Feast of St. Blaise which takes place on the 3rd February.
St Blaise is widely regarded as the patron saint of sore throats. Patrick Duffy asks who was Blaise. He then outlines some of the practices associated with his cult and evaluates it. The blessing of throats
St Blaise is best known as the patron saint of people with sore throat. In many places on 3rd February – his feast day – people gather in churches for the blessing of throats. The blessing is a sign of the people’s faith in God’s protection and love for the sick.
Using two crossed and unlighted candles, the priest (or other minister) touches the throat of each person, saying: Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from all ailments of the throat and from every other evil: + in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Usually the blessing takes place in Mass. It follows the homily and the prayer of the faithful. If done outside of Mass, a brief celebration of the word of God with the scripture readings suggested in the Lectionary is recommended before the blessing is given.
Who was Blaise?
Who was St Blaise? And how has he become so famous for the blessing of throats?
Blaise was a bishop at Sebaste (now the city of Sivas in Turkey) in what was then the Roman province of Armenia-Cappadocia). During a persecution – probably ordered by Constantine’s ally and co-emperor Licinius – he was martyred in 316 AD. This much at least seems to be historical fact, according to the New Roman Martyrology 2004. In the Eastern churches his feast falls on the 11th February, in the West on 3rd February.
Stories about him in the martyrology accounts of his life
In the Middle Ages Blaise became one of the most widely venerated saints in the Western Church even though from the East. Different accounts of his life and stories about him appear in the 9th century martyrologies and these give us a clue to the source of his wide popularity.
The most significant detail tells that when Blaise had been captured and was on his way to prison, a boy was brought to him in danger of choking from a fishbone stuck in his throat. Blaise prayed over him and he was cured. Perhaps to fill out his healing credentials, it is also reported that before he was chosen as bishop, Blaise had practised as a physician.
Another detail recounts that when the persecution began, Blaise withdrew from the city of Sebaste and lived in a cave in the wilderness where he befriended the birds and wild animals. He cared for them and they watched out for him. So we needn’t be surprised that he becomes a forerunner of St Francis as patron of all kinds of animals.
It is also reported that when he was arrested on orders of the local governor Agricolaus and again on his way to prison, a woman whose pig had been carried off by a wolf begged him to help her. He promised with a smile that her request would be granted. Shortly afterwards the wolf appeared at the woman’s door depositing the pig at her feet.
And finally about the manner of his death – it is told that he was first beaten, then put on the stone table used for combing out wool and flayed with the prickly metal combs that remove tiny stones from the wool. Finally he was put to death and beheaded.