The Legendary Bishop of Sebaste
St. Blaise is perhaps one of the most famous medieval martyrs in Catholicism. What we know about him comes from stories and traditions which came down to the present. In accordance with various traditions, Blaise was born towards the end of the 2nd century. He was believed to be born to wealthy and noble parents and most probably a native of Sebastia, Cappadocia in Asia Minor.
According to legends, most specially the apocryphal Acts of St. Blaise, Blaise was a physician before he was made a bishop. But he was not just a physician: he was a physician possessing the wonderful power of healing. All sources agree that Blaise was the Bishop of Sebaste in Armenia. At that time, a local community usually nominated a man to be a bishop according to his outstanding holiness and exceptional leadership qualities. Therefore, Blaise must have been a great witness to and an example of the faith to say the least.
Although Christianity had become the state religion of Rome through Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 312, Licinius did not recognize the decree. He began a persecution of the Christians. Those who were suspected as adherents of the Christian faith were sought and arrested. It was during that time that Blaise, the Bishop of Sebaste, was discovered and apprehended.
In the apocryphal Acts of St. Blaise, when Blaise was arrested and being led to prison, he met a woman rushing up to him and pleaded for him to save her only son. The woman’s son was choking to death because of a fishbone. Moved by the mother’s plea, Blaise interceded with his prayers. The boy was miraculously healed! Blaise, even in his life, was known for healing humans.
Numerous miracles were attributed to St. Blaise, including the cure of diseased animals when he was in his refuge. Yes, Blaise was also known for helping and healing animals! Stories say that when the persecution of Christians began, as instructed by the Lord, he withdrew to a cave in the woods. Blaise soon became the friend of animals that were wounded or ill. One day, hunters were searching for wild animals to bring to the city’s amphitheater. To their shock, they saw Blaise, kneeling and praying, and was surrounded by totally tame wolves, bears and lions in his presence.
Another recounts a miracle that Blaise performed during his life. He met a poor woman who was greatly distressed because a wolf had snatched her small young pig. The woman asked for his help. Blaise commanded the wolf to return the woman’s pig. Some moments later, the wolf heard Blaise and it brought back the pig which was not harmed.
Bishop Blaise was tortured in various ways. He was whipped and raked with iron combs. Finally, the popular Bishop of Sebaste was beheaded. St. Blaise was venerated in the East by the 6th century and in the West by the 9th century. His cult spread throughout Christendom from the 8th century. Many churches are dedicated to him. His feast day is February 3.
5 Interesting Facts About St. Blaise
- He is venerated as the patron saint of sufferers from throat diseases and of wool combers.
- In the Middle Ages he gained widespread popularity as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers or Martyrs. Those who were with St. Blaise were Saints George, Erasmus, Pantaleon, Vitus, Christopher, Denis, Cyriacus, Acacius, Eustace, Giles, Margaret, Barbara and Catherine.
- St. Blaise is venerated as a saint in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox Churches.
- During the feast day of St. Blaise on February 3, the blessing of throats may be given by a priest, deacon, or a lay minister who follows the rites and prayers designated for a lay minister. The blessing may be given by touching the throat of each person with two candles blessed on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord (February 2) and which have been joined together in the form of a cross.
- St. Blaise rescued the city of Dubrovnik from Venetian invasion.
Prayer to St. Blaise
Hear, O Lord, the supplications your people makeunder the patronage of the Martyr Saint Blaise,and grant that they may rejoice in peace in this present life,and find help for life eternal.Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,God, for ever and ever. Amen.