St. Blaise

I’ve only actually known one Blaise in my life, my Uncle Blaise, who I loved dearly and who died twelve years ago of pancreatic cancer (the same disease the killed my father and that my aunt now suffers from). However, there is one other Blaise I remember from my youth, and that is St. Blaise, whose memorial the Catholic Church celebrates today.

We never actually learned anything about the life of St. Blaise. (Indeed, as I understand, no one knows a whole lot about his life.) However, each year on this day on which we remember him, a priest showed up in our Catholic grade school classroom with a pair of crossed candles. One by one, we filed up to the front of the room so the priest could press the candles against our throats to bless them and keep us from illness.

The source of this invocation of St. Blaise to prevent and heal illnesses of the throat comes from a legend of a boy who had a fishbone stuck in his throat. According to the legend, the boy was brought to St. Blaise, who healed the boy as he was about to die.

I never know what to think of these legends. Was there actually a St. Blaise? Did he really heal a boy who was going to choke from a fishbone? If so, does that mean St. Blaise’s powers only extend to preventing choking from foreign objects or does it extend to other illnesses of the throat?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. But what I do know is this: My daughter is a singer and I am always concerned about her getting a sore throat, especially during this cold time of year. And legend or no, I find myself praying to St. Blaise to keep her from illnesses of the throat.

And so, in the words of a common prayer: Saint Blaise, pray for us that we may not suffer from illnesses of the throat and pray that all who are suffering be healed by God’s love. Amen.

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