Today is one of my favorite feast days of the Church. St. Blaise, an Armenian Bishop was martyred for the faith by order of the Emperor Licinius, who wanted all Christians killed.

As he was being led away to prison a young boy was brought before him choking on a fish bone and Blaise cured him immediately. (Some jokingly refer to St. Blaise as the Saint of the Heimilich manuever. Regardless, the miracle that is attributed to him lives on each February 3 when churches offer a blessing of the throats to all who ask for it. Two candles (Unlit!) are placed against the throat and the following blessing is invoked:

Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, may you be free of every ailment of the throat and from every other evil. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A little known legend about St. Blaise: He is also the patron saint of wild animals. Much of what we hear about St Blaise surrounds his persecution. And that gives us this story. When the persecution of Christians began Blaise received a message from God to flee to the h.ills. Hunters discovered him in a cave surrounded by wild animals who were sick but Blaise walked among them unafraid and cured them of their illnesses. The hunters however, considered Blaise to be a better catch than the animals themselves. On the way back, however Blaise talked a wolf into releasing a pig. It turns out that the pig was the livelihood of a poor woman, who was thus saved from abject poverty by his action. Ironically, Blaise was sentenced to be starved to death. The woman, in gratitude, however, sneaked into the prison with food and candles, keeping Blaise temporarily sustained. Blaise was beheaded by the governor.

So today let us pray for those who care for animals and take care of them–especially animals that are not household pets. In these cold winter months, may we also ask St Blaise to pray on behalf of those who suffer from throat ailments.

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