Sunday, February 3, 2008

St. Blaise, healer of throats

When I was lamenting the apparent absence of festive saints in the early church, I overlooked one thing some of the early Christians did very well. Despite their willingness for the body to be hungry, tired, cold, lonely, and nonreproductive, they did not think it should be ill.

Today's patron saint, Bishop Blaise of Armenia, was a physician. OK, he was a hermit, and he lived in a cave and walked on water, so he's not quite the earthy, festive saint I'm hoping to find. Still, he must have loved the created world, because he had a widespread reputation for healing animals. Thrown in jail during one of the early-fourth-century persecutions, he also healed his fellow prisoners, including a child who was choking on a fish bone.

A few years ago in early February, I listened as our bishop told stories about St. Blaise to a group of RCIA candidates (people who are preparing to join the Catholic church). St. Blaise, he said, is the patron saint of people with throat ailments, and every year on February 3 the church offers a blessing of the throats. The bishop explained that he would use two candles to make the sign of the cross, and any of us who wished to do so could come forward for the blessing.

At that point a young red-headed electrician could stand it no longer. "Who thinks up this stuff?" he exclaimed.

A lot of saints' stories are pretty strange, and a lot of saints appear to have needed medication that hadn't been invented yet. I'm glad to know, though, that St. Blaise valued the earthly life and physical comfort of a child in distress.

No comments: