Today, in many places, Catholics will have their throats blessed (with crossed candles procured at yesterday's Candlemas observance) through the intercession of St. Blaise.
His is one of two optional memorials permitted today (the First Friday of the month when the Mass of the Sacred Heart may be celebrated when there is hope of spiritual benefit or where a devotion has developed); the other is of the missionary evangelist of Northern Europe, St. Ansgar.
OPTIONAL MEMORIAL – ST. BLAISE
We know more about the devotion to St. Blaise by Christians around the world than we know about the saint himself. His feast is observed as a holy day in some Eastern Churches. The Council of Oxford, in 1222, prohibited servile labor in England on Blaise’s feast day. The Germans and Slavs hold him in special honor and for decades many United States Catholics have sought the annual St. Blaise blessing for their throats.
We know that Bishop Blaise was martyred in his episcopal city of Sebastea, Armenia, in 316. The legendary Acts of St. Blaise were written 400 years later. According to them Blaise was a good bishop, working hard to encourage the spiritual and physical health of his people.
Although the Edict of Toleration (311), granting freedom of worship in the Roman Empire, was already five years old, persecution still raged in Armenia. Blaise was apparently forced to flee to the back country. There he lived as a hermit in solitude and prayer, but he made friends with the wild animals. One day a group of hunters seeking wild animals for the amphitheater stumbled upon Blaise’s cave. They were first surprised and then frightened. The bishop was kneeling in prayer surrounded by patiently waiting wolves, lions and bears.
As the hunters hauled Blaise off to prison, the legend has it, a mother came with her young son who had a fish bone lodged in his throat. At Blaise’s command the child was able to cough up the bone.
Agricolaus, governor of Cappadocia, tried to persuade Blaise to sacrifice to pagan idols. The first time Blaise refused, he was beaten. The next time he was suspended from a tree and his flesh torn with iron combs or rakes. (English wool combers, who used similar iron combs, took Blaise as their patron. They could easily appreciate the agony the saint underwent.) Finally, he was beheaded. (www.AmericanCatholic/saintoftheday)
Hear, O Lord, the supplications your people make under 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.
* * * * * *
OPTIONAL MEMORIAL – ST. ANSGAR
The “apostle of the north” (Scandinavia) had enough frustrations to become a saint—and he did. He became a Benedictine at Corbie, France, where he had been educated. Three years later, when the king of Denmark became a convert, Ansgar went to that country for three years of missionary work, without noticeable success.
Sweden asked for Christian missionaries, and he went there, suffering capture by pirates and other hardships on the way. Fewer than two years later, he was recalled, to become abbot of New Corbie (Corvey) and bishop of Hamburg. The pope made him legate for the Scandinavian missions.
Funds for the northern apostolate stopped with Emperor Louis’s death. After 13 years’ work in Hamburg, Ansgar saw it burned to the ground by invading Northmen; Sweden and Denmark returned to paganism.
He directed new apostolic activities in the North, traveling to Denmark and being instrumental in the conversion of another king. By the strange device of casting lots, the king of Sweden allowed the Christian missionaries to return.
Ansgar’s biographers remark that he was an extraordinary preacher, a humble and ascetical priest. He was devoted to the poor and the sick, imitating the Lord in washing their feet and waiting on them at table. He died peacefully at Bremen, Germany, without achieving his wish to be a martyr.
Sweden became pagan again after his death, and remained so until the coming of missionaries two centuries later. (www.AmericanCatholic/saintoftheday)
O God, who willed to send the Bishop Saint Ansgar to enlighten many peoples, grant us, through his intercession, that we may always walk in the light of your truth. Through our Lord.
* * * * * *
The Neo-Catechumenal Way
Recently, Father Joseph Muldoon, E.V. and I welcomed a team of itinerant evangelists of the Neo-Catechumenal Way who have come to invite people to a deeper relationship with Our Lord in the Church, a relationship that has changed their lives. Welcome, bienvenue, benvenidos!
They will share their journey with members of the parish of Sainte Famille/Sagrada Familia in the next couple of months.