Catholic Activity: Feast of St. Blaise
From the Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs by Francis X. Weiser, S.J.
BLAISE (FEBRUARY 3)
This martyr, a bishop in Armenia, suffered and died at the beginning of the fourth century. The legends handed down tell us that he was a physician before he became a bishop and that, while in prison, he miraculously cured a little boy who nearly died because of a fishbone in his throat.1
The veneration of Saint Blaise was brought to Europe before the ninth century, and he soon became one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages. Having been a physician, he was now invoked as a helper in sickness and pain, but especially against evils of the throat. Legends of a later date relate how shortly before his death he had asked God for the power of curing all those who would pray to him for help. "And behold, a voice answered from Heaven that his request was granted by the Lord."2
In medieval times many shrines existed in honor of Saint Blaise. In central Europe and in the Latin countries people still are given blessed breads (Saint Blaise sticks: Pan bendito) of which they eat a small piece whenever they have a sore throat.3 The best-known sacramental in his honor, however, is the "Blessing of Throats" with candles. It has been in use for many centuries and was adopted by the Church as one of its official blessings.4 The priest holds the crossed candles against the head or throat of the person and says: "Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may the Lord free you from evils of the throat and from any other evil."5 In various places of Italy the priests do not use candles but touch the throats of the faithful with a wick dipped into blessed oil while they pronounce the invocation.
LITURGICAL PRAYER O God who grantest us joy by the annual solemnity of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr: grant also that we may rejoice over his protection, whose birthday we celebrate.