Saint Blaise and Blessing of Throats

Through the intercession of St. 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.

Saint Blaise blessing throatsThere’s a good chance you’ll have the opportunity today, on the feast of Saint Blaise, to receive a blessing of your throat when you attend Sunday Mass. St. Blaise is the patron saint against throat ailments, so you might see the priest or deacon get out two tapered candle sticks and pray over parishioners’ throats. It seems like a funny tradition, so where did it start?

There isn’t much known about this fourth century martyr, but some legends might give us a clue into the current traditions for his feast day. Saint Blaise is said to have been born into a wealthy noble family. He was raised a Christian and became a bishop in Armenia; then the persecution of Christians began. While he was in prison for refusing to renounce his faith, a young boy was choking on a fish bone, and was miraculously saved by Saint Blaise.

But what about the candles? Another legend says that on his way to prison, St. Blaise encountered a wolf who had captured a poor woman’s pig. She begged for Blaise to help, and he commanded the wolf to release the livestock. In gratitude for his intervention, the woman brought candles to his prison cell so that he would have light to read the Scriptures.

Saint Blaise was martyred around the year 316 during the persecution of Licinius.