The feast of the ninth century bishop of Sebaste in Armenia, Saint Blaise, is notable for the ancient custom of the blessing of throats. Two consecrated candles are held at the throat as a prayer is recited by the Priest, At the intercession of the Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every evil.
Why do we keep such a tradition on this day? It is an happy accident that this day follows Candlemas, but the principle reason is that, whilst imprisoned during the persecution of the emperor Diocletian, Saint Blaise became known for his ability to heal the sick who came to him. One of his patients, a young boy with a fish bone lodged in his throat, was among those he rescued, and so began today’s devotion.
The faithful who came to Saint Blaise were drawn to him because, as the Breviary tells us, they were ‘attracted by his sanctity’. This is the essential message of today’s feast and the praiseworthy devotion attached to it. Put simply, by his holiness of life Saint Blaise drew others to Christ. Through personal piety and devotion, others saw beyond his intellectual ability, physical strength, and even the high dignity of his episcopal office, saw Christ, and so were drawn to Christ. As we celebrate his feast, may the intercession of Saint Blaise truly free us from every sickness of the throat. May he also help free us from all that hinders others from seeing Christ through us, that we may, like this holy bishop, bring others to know the joy of a life lived in the communion of the Church, and the salvation which is thereby offered.