3 Feb – Memorial for St. Blaise, bishop and martyr; Memorial for St. Ansgar, bishop
St. Blaise (d. 316) was a physician and Bishop of Sebaste, Armenia. He lived in a cave on Mount Argeus. He was a healer of men and animals. According to legend, sick animals would come to him on their own for help, but would never disturb him in prayer.
Agricola, governor of Cappadocia, came to Sebaste to persecute Christians. His huntsmen went into the forests of Argeus to find wild animals for the arena games, and found many waiting outside Blaise’s cave. Discovered in prayer, Blaise was arrested, and Agricola tried to get him to recant his faith. While in prison, Blaise ministered to and healed his fellow prisoners, including saving a child who was choking on a fish bone; this led to the blessing of throats on Blaise’s feast day.
Thrown into a lake to drown, Blaise stood on the surface and invited his persecutors to walk out and prove the power of their gods; they drowned. When he returned to land, he was martyred by being beaten, his flesh torn out with wool combs (which led to his association with, and patronage of those involved in the wool trade), and then beheaded.
Blaise has been extremely popular for centuries in both the Eastern and Western Churches. In 1222, the Council of Oxford prohibited servile labour in England on his feast. He is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.
St. Ansgar (801-865) was born to the French nobility. He was a Benedictine monk at Old Corbie Abbey in Picardy, and New Corbie in Westphalia. He studied under St. Adelard and St. Paschasius Radbert. He accompanied the converted King Harold to Denmark when the exiled king returned home.
He was a missionary to Denmark and Sweden. He founded the first Christian church in Sweden in c.832. He was abbot of New Corbie in c.834. He was ordained Archbishop of Hamburg by Pope Gregory IV. He was a papal legate to the Scandanavian countries. He established the first Christian school in Denmark, but was run out by pagans, and the school was burned to the ground. He campaigned against slavery.
He was Archbishop of Bremen. He converted Erik, King of Jutland. He was a great preacher, a miracle worker, and greatly devoted to the poor and sick. Sadly, after his death most of his gains for the Church were lost to resurgent paganism.
- Patron Saint Index
“I will not fail you or desert you.”
Today is the feast day of St Ansgar, who is the patron saint of Denmark, as well as St Blaise, who is the patron saint of throat illnesses.
The Catholic Church has upheld a traditional devotion to Saint Blaise with the blessing of throats. The blessing is a sign of people’s faith in God’s protection and love for the sick. But how did this devotion come about?
St Blaise was a good bishop and lived as a hermit due to rampant persecution in the Roman Empire, but he made friends with wild animals. One day, a group of hunters seeking wild animals for a game in an amphitheatre stumbled upon St Blaise’s cave. They were surprised and frightened at the sight that greeted them. St Blaise was kneeling in prayer surrounded by patiently waiting wild animals. There were calm wolves, lions and bears all around him.
However, the hunters still brought St Blaise to prison. While hauling him to prison, a mother came with a young son who had a fish bone lodged in his throat. At St Blaise’s command, the child was able to cough up the bone.
Reading today’s gospel reflection and the saints’ background, I cannot help but remember an incident many years ago when my paternal grandmother swallowed a large stingray bone. She did not know what to do and only told her family about it two days later. Our entire family kept her in prayers to be safe and sound and brought her to the hospital immediately. The doctors managed to extract the bone safely, which had travelled in her bloodstream to her shoulder. It was a horrifying ordeal for her, and she got so traumatised that she never ate fish again. But we were also grateful to God for His protection over her. I did not know about St Blaise’s intercession back then, but I will definitely say a prayer to him the next time I witness a similar situation.
But then, there have been many cases when swallowing something has been fatal. My maternal grandfather passed away after he choked on a whole fishball. But this does not mean God has failed to protect or desert us. Ageing is something that we cannot prevent if we go through it, but God will still protect our souls from the fires of hell, if we strive to always love Him, pray to Him and trust in Him.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Brenda Khoo)
Prayer: Dear Lord, may You always protect us, and remind us that You never abandon us. Please bless our throats and keep us safe from all evil. Amen.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always protecting us and keeping us safe from all visible and invisible evil. Amen.
For more information on how the blessing of throats is conducted, you can view the prayer here: https://www.saintsfeastfamily.com/copy-of-st-blaise-feb-3-1. If it is possible and feasible, you can request your parish priest to conduct this blessing in Mass on 3 February.
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