Brother John Raymond
January 31, 1998
Not long ago my mother was at a restaurant eating lunch when somehow part of sandwich became lodged in her throat. Fortunately, my mother works for a group of doctors and just happened to be eating with Donna, a nurse's aid. She saw my mother's face start to turn a different shade than normal. She asked if everything was all right and when my mother couldn't respond she knew things were serious. So she performed the Heimlich maneuver on her, which successfully dislodged the obstruction from her throat.
What would I have done if I had been there? Probably have tried the same technique with a different result, my mother would have still been choking. Then having researched St. Blaise for this article, I would have fervently asked for his intercession - now that I believe would work! Why would this Saint come to mind in such a situation? Because there is a story that a mother brought a boy to him who was at the point of death due to a fishbone stuck in his throat and the Saint cured him. On account of this and other similar cures St. Blaise has been invoked for many centuries for all kinds of throat problems.
So who was St. Blaise? Biographers are in agreement that St. Blaise was Bishop of
Sebaste in Armenia and most of the accounts place his martyrdom in the reign of Licinius
(about 316). Nothing more is known for sure but there is an 8th century "legend"
that arose about him. According to it Blaise was a physician at Sebaste before becoming
Bishop. At the time of the persecution under Licinius he was sought for to arrest. He
received a message from God to go into the hills to escape persecution. Those commissioned
to hunt him down found him in the wilderness in a cave surrounded by wild animals who were
sick. Among them Blaise walked unafraid, curing them of their illnesses.
While being taken back for trial, St. Blaise is said to have talked a wolf into releasing a pig that belonged to a poor woman. When Blaise was sentenced to be starved to death, the woman, in gratitude, sneaked into the prison with food and candles. After suffering various forms of torture St. Blaise was beheaded.
The veneration of this Eastern Saint passed to the West at an early date. He became one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages. Numberless churches and altars were dedicated to him and many localities claimed to possess some of his relics. To this day in many places the Blessing of the Throats is given on his feast day: Two candles are blessed, held slightly open, and pressed against the throat as the following blessing is said: "Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
St. Blaise is represented holding two crossed candles in his hand (the Blessing of St. Blaise) or in a cave surrounded by wild beasts. He is the patron saint of wild animals because of his care for them and of those with throat maladies. Given the number of colds that get passed around this time of year, it certainly would be a help to receive the Blessing of St. Blaise for the whole family.