We know more about the devotion to St. 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. The Council of Oxford, in 1222, 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 St. 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.
As the hunters hauled Blaise off to prison, the legend has it, 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. (English wool combers, who used similar iron combs, took Blaise as
their patron. They could easily appreciate the agony the saint
underwent.) Finally, he was beheaded.
“Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God
deliver you from ailments of the throat and from every other evil. In the
name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Blessing of