Saint Blase

Although Saint Blase is one of the more prominent saints in Catholic tradition, his origins are obscure. According to legend, Blase was an Armenian Bishop who was martyred, around 316 A.D., during the persecutions of the Roman Emperor Licinius. These persecutions were the most vicious and widespread--and the last--of the Roman Empire's efforts to snuff out Christianity for refusing to submit to the Roman state religion of Jupiter.

Other scholarship, however, suggests that St. Blase (also spelled "Blaise") bears some of the attributes of the Slavic horse-god Vlaise, who was, among other things, the god of animals.

Saint Blase was reported to have hidden from the Roman authorities by living in a cave with wild animals, whom he tamed by blessing. Blase was discovered by hunters who saw him curing sick and wounded animals. The hunters captured him and took him to the government.

As Blase was on his way to prison, he encountered a mother whose boy was choking to death on a fishbone. Blase blessed the boy's throat, and dissolved the fishbone.

During Blase's imprisonment, the mother brought him food and candles. After being ripped by wool-combs, Blase was beheaded.

The first evidence of a cult of Blase dates to 8th century Armenia. Blase was always invoked for ailments of the throat; after the crusades, his notoriety spread to Western Europe, and persons who went to church on February 3, his feast day, began to have their throats blessed.

The custom of using two candles in the blessing derives from the candles which the choking boy's mother brought to Blase.

Saint Blase is recognized as the patron of wild animals, wool combers, and all persons who have ailments of the throat. Sick cattle are sometimes given water with the blessing of St. Blase. Four miracles have been recorded at his shrine.

In Germany, Sweden, and Hungary, St. Blase was revered as one of the "fourteen holy helpers," a set of martyrs known for intercession in cases of sickness.

-Dave Kopel

For more: Prayer to St. Blase.

Novena for St. Blase.

Icons of St. Blase.

Visit Kopel's MaryLinks website for links and for a daily calendar of Marian feasts, history, devotions, and events.

More by Kopel on Catholic Saints.

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