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``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Feast of
St. Blaise

St. Blaise (also spelled Blase and Blasius) -- one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers -- was a 3rd century physician who became Bishop of Sebaste, Armenia. This was the time of persecution under Licinius, so St. Blaise hid out in a cave on Mt. Argeus. From the Golden Legend:

...the birds of heaven brought to him meat for to eat. And it seemed to him that they came to serve him and accompany him, and would not depart from him till he had lift up his hands and blessed them. And also sick men came to him and anon were cured and healed.

Now it happed that the prince of this region sent his knights to hunt, and they could take nothing. But by adventure they came unto the desert place where S. Blase was, where they found great multitude of beasts which were about him, of whom they could take none, whereof they were all abashed and showed this to their lord, the which anon sent many knights for him, and commanded to bring him and all the christian men with him.

And that night Jesu Christ appeared to him thrice, which said to him: Arise up and make to me sacrifice. Lo! here be the knights that come to fetch thee at the commandment of the prince. And the knights said to him: Come out from this place, the president calleth thee. And S. Blase answered: My sons, ye be welcome, I see now well that God hath not forgotten me. He went with them and continually preached, and did many miracles tofore them.

There was a woman that had a son dying, in whose throat was a bone of a fish athwart, which estrangled him, and she brought him tofore his feet, praying him that he would make her son whole. And S. Blase put his hand upon him and made his prayer to God that this child, and all they that demanded benefits of health in his name, that they should be holpen and obtain it, and anon he was whole and guerished.

Another woman there was that was poor which had a swine, which the wolf had borne away, and she humbly prayed to S. Blase that she might have again her swine. And he began to smile and said: Good woman anger thee not, for thou shalt have again thy swine, and anon the wolf brought again to the woman, which was a widow, her swine.

St. Blaise was captured and taken before the prince, whose gods, Blaise informed him, were fiends. The prince was enraged and threw him in prison. The widow whose pig was returned to her killed the pig and fed Blaise with it. From the Golden Legend again: 

And when this good widow, which by S. Blase had recovered her swine, heard thereof, she slew it, and the head and the feet with a little bread and a candle, she brought to S. Blase, and he thanked God and ate thereof, and he said to her that every year she should offer in his church a candle, and know thou that to thee and to all them that so shall do shall well happen to them, and so she did all her life, and she had much great prosperity.

Even after imprisonment, he refused to worship the prince's gods, and for punishment his flesh torn by wool combs. He was finally beheaded, martyred along with seven women and two children.

Because of the cure of the boy's throat when the boy was choking, St. Blaise is patron against troubles of the throat, and today our throats are blessed at Mass. The priest will bless two candles in honor of St. Blaise. The words of this blessing are:

V. Our help + is in the name of the Lord.
R. Who made heaven and earth.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit. Let us pray.

Almighty and most gentle God, Who didst create the multiplicity of things through Thine only Word, and didst will that same Word through Whom all things were made to take flesh for the refashioning of man; Thou, Who art great and without measure, terrible and worthy of praise, a Worker of wonders: the glorious martyr and bishop Blaise, not fearing to suffer all sorts of diverse tortures because of his profession of faith in Thee, was suited happily to bear the palm of martyrdom: and Thou didst grant to him, among other graces, the favor that he should by Thy power cure all kinds of illnesses of the throat: we humbly beg Thy Majesty not to look upon our sins, but to be pleased by his merits and prayers and to deign in Thy venerable kindness to bless + and sanctify + this creature of wax by the outpouring of Thy grace; that all whose necks in good faith are touched by it may be freed by the merits of his sufferings from any illness of the throat, and that healthy and strong they may offer thanks to Thee within Thy Holy Church, and praise Thy glorious name, which is blessed forever and ever. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.

R. Amen.

Then he will hold the two, unlit blessed candles crossed over our throats, intoning:

Per intercessionem S. Blasii liberet te Deus a malo gutteris et a quovis alio malo

May God at the intercession of St. Blasius preserve you from throat troubles and every other evil.

Then he will make a sign of the Cross over us.

St. Blaise is also the patron of veterinarians and against attacks of wild animals. He is represented in art as a Bishop holding two crossed candles, with wool combs, or in a cave surrounded by wild animals.


Some may prepare for this feast by praying a Novena to St. Blase starting on January 25 and ending on February 2, the eve of this feast. For the day itself, the following prayer is a good one:

O glorious St. Blaise, who with a short prayer didst restore to perfect safety a child at the point of death from a fish-bone fixed in its throat, grant that we may all feel the power of thy patronage in every malady of the throat, and may have the special grace to mortify the dangerous sense of taste by observing faithfully the precepts of the Church. Thou also, who in thy martyrdom hast left to the Church the testimony of a glorious faith, grant that we may keep this divine gift intact, and that in these times we may be enabled, by word and deed, without fear of man, to defend the truths of faith, so grievously obscured and attacked. Amen.

Now for the folk customs: It's traditional in Lombary, Italy to eat a piece of Christmas panettone (an Italian fruit-studded bread) for breakfast in the morning today. The panettone is saved just for this purpose. But if you haven't saved any (or never had any for Christmas to begin with), you can make some now:

San Biagio's Panettone

2 ounces baker's yeast, or 3 (1/4-ounce) packages dry active yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup hot water, to make the syrup
4 large egg yolks
1/2 large egg white
4 1/2 ounces unsalted butter
Grated zest of 1 organically grown lemon
1 pinch of salt
3/4 cup candied fruit peel, diced
3 1/2 ounces sultana raisins, plumped in warm water and drained well

Dissolve the yeast in a little warm water, and combine it with 7/8 cup flour. Knead well, form the dough into a loaf, make an X in the top of the loaf, wrap the loaf in a cloth, and let it rise in a warm place for about 25 minutes.

Combine the loaf with 1 1/8 cups flour and the milk. Knead until the dough is smooth and homogenous, form it into a loaf, and wrap it in the cloth. Put it to rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

Put the sugar in a bowl and dissolve it with a little hot water to make a syrup. Beat in the yolks, one at a time, and about half an egg white. Keep the mixture warm over a double boiler, but do not let it cook.

Melt 1/2 cup of butter.

Make a mound of the remaining flour in a bowl and scoop a well into it. Put the risen dough in the well, together with the melted butter, the grated lemon zest, a pinch of salt, and the warm syrup mixture. Mix energetically for 15 minutes, adding, if need be, a little warm water; the dough should be firm and elastic. Incorporate the raisins (squeeze them to make sure they are well-drained) and the candied fruit into the dough. Shape the dough into a ball and put it in a bowl, in a warm place. Let it rise until it has doubled in volume.

Preheat your oven to 440 F. Melt the remaining butter.

Put the dough into a high-sided mold lined with buttered oven parchment, make an X on the top of it, and bake it for about an hour. After 10 minutes, carefully pour the melted butter into the X on top of the panettone and continue to bake it until it is done, gradually lowering the oven temperature somewhat as the top browns.

Elsewhere in Italy (such as in Abruzzo), hand-shaped loaves of bread called "panicelle" are eaten.

In Orbetello, Tuscany, Italy, a great procession is made of St. Blaise's relics in May, when many young people receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Fishermen from nearby Ansedonia bring the Saint's skull from their town, process past a great lagoon, and go on to Orbetello, a city for which "San Biagio" is patron.

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