February 5, 2014: Saint Blaise—A Saint Who Loved All Creatures

~by Susi Pittman

How’s your throat doing these days?

The reason I ask is February 3rd was the Feast Day of Saint Blaise, a Bishop and Martyr of the Church who is most known for saving the life of a choking young boy on the way to his martyrdom. Many sick and suffering people would seek him out to be touched and healed by him. Because Jesus gave Saint Blaise such special healing powers, his help has been invoked through the centuries to the present for aid in healing throat sicknesses. The Blessing of the Throats occurs annually at this time. Two candles are used in the blessing, they are blessed and held like Saint Andrew’s cross against the throat or over the head of the person.  I have had my throat regularly blessed on his feast day.  The blessing is as follows:

Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from ailments of the throat and from every other evil.  In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

But, few people know that he cared for and loved the wild animals. His is a story of a saint who loved all creatures and whom the creatures loved in return. As a young child he was not like other boys. His playmates were the domestic animals and the creatures of the woods and the mountains. He longed to learn how to help them. He had great compassion for creatures and for all people who were suffering or sick.

Saint Blaise attended school and studied medicine. He went on to be known throughout the region as someone who was very compassionate, taking care of the sick children and healing the domestic animals and household pets.

He was appointed the Bishop of Sebastea where he claimed a cave in the mountains of Armenia to be his special place of refuge to be alone in prayer with God. He received wild animals as visitors, most impressively because they sought him out. There were lions, tigers, leopards, bears and wolves. If they were ill or hurt, they knew to come to him for he would heal them. He was comfortable with wild animals as his companions and they sensed his goodness and love. The timid creatures were brave and the fierce creatures were timid.

There was a woman who came to Saint Blaise one day in great distress, to tell him that a wolf had carried her pig away. He told the woman to go home, that he would speak with the wolf. Much as in the story of St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio, Saint Blaise spoke to animals with the same love he spoke to people. He told the wolf that the pig was a friend of his also and commanded the wolf to bring the pig back to the woman. It was done and the wolf was rewarded for his kindness by Saint Blaise.

Saint Blaise lived during the 300’s A.D. and it was a perilous time to be a Christian. Emperor Licinius was killing thousands of Christians. He sent his soldiers into the mountains to get wild beasts to bring back to kill the Christians for sport in his games arena. The soldiers found a large number of wild animals at the cave of Saint Blaise, surrounding the saint. They would not move and remained encircled about their saint friend. The soldiers were so astonished at the sight that they left without trying to take a single animal. Returning to the emperor with the news, he sent them back to bring Saint Blaise to him. The soldiers returned, finding Saint Blaise alone and he welcomed them saying,  I am ready, I have long expected you. He knew he was nearing martyrdom. It was on his way to the Emperor and certain imprisonment that Saint Blaise cured his last patient,—the boy who was choking on a fishbone.

The Emperor Licinius commanded Saint Blaise to worship pagan idols, and he refused. The Emperor knew he could not put Saint Blaise in the arena with the wild animals, because they would not harm him. He had him beaten and thrown into the dungeon. He was later suspended from a tree and had his flesh torn with iron combs and finally he was beheaded in 316 A.D.

We see in Saint Blaise the holiness the restoration of a paradise lost and regained again in Jesus. Having lived his life in harmony with not only his fellow mankind, but with the natural world, he points us to the promise that Jesus gives to us…eternal life, transformed through suffering and death, into resurrection. Behold, I make ALL things new!

And you can bet that heaven is full of those creatures that Saint Blaise called friends!

Prayer in Honor of St. Blaise
O GOD, deliver us through the intercession of Thy holy bishop and martyr Saint Blaise, from all evil of soul and body, especially from all ills of the throat; and grant us a disposition of kindness to God’s creatures whom he loved. To be healers where there is injury and to have the courage to die for Our Lord Jesus by dying to ourselves and rising anew to life in Jesus. Amen
.

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Susi Pittman is founder of CatholicStewardsofCreation.com and Owner-President of Twin Oaks Publishing; she is author of Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!; an advocate for the Florida Catholic Conference; a member of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Council of Women in Jacksonville, Florida; an Associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph, St. Augustine;a member of the Florida Publishers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, the National Association of Professional Women, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and the National Audubon society.
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