It is tradition in many Catholic churches for the faithful to attend Mass on February 3 to receive the blessing of the throats. This is in correlation to the feast of St. Blaise. Sometimes the blessing of the throats will happen during the Sunday Mass following the saint’s feast day. But, who is St. Blaise and why is he significant with throats?
There are not many early writings available on the saint’s life. The first known record of his life comes decades later when Aetius Amidenus writes about the saint’s healing powers in some medical writings. Amidenus writes about the miracles attributed to Blaise where he was helping people that were suffering from objects caught in their throats. The majority of St. Blaise’s miraculous actions are captured and recorded over 400 years after his death in the “Acts of Blaise.”
Blaise spent many years working with the sick, specifically those with throat issues, and later retired to live in a cave alone and spent his days in prayer. He is thought of as a man of God that started as a physical healer and then later became a “physician of souls.”
Blaise was a bishop who, in 316, was ordered to be arrested and martyred by Governor Agricola of Cappadocia. It was during his arrest that Blaise met the fish that would help give him sainthood. Or, shall we say, met the carcass of the fish. Tradition says that after his arrest and while he was being taken to jail that a woman brought her son to Blaise for healing. The boy had swallowed a fish bone and it was stuck in his throat, threatening his life. Blaise said a prayer over the boy and the child was able to spit the bone out of his throat. This gives the St. Blaise the recognition of being the patron of throats and throat illnesses.
Jesus often used fish for a variety of miracles and purposes. We know of the feeding of the 5,000 with a couple fish and loaves of bread. Jesus called the disciples to be "fishers of men" and even provided an abundance of fish for the disciples during a fishing trip. It is not a far stretch to know that the power of the Holy Spirit would use a fish - or at least it's carcass - to help a godly bishop become a saint.
The miracle captured Agricola’s attention and it is said that the governor was amazed and shocked by the miracle. However, he was more concerned with getting Blaise to renounce his faith than the miracle of a child’s life being spared. In fact, Agricola’s insistence that Blaise renounce and deny the very faith that allowed him the power to save the boy is a clear example of the blindness Satan causes in the lives of many to be unaware of the presence of God in many circumstances. Agricola had a miracle directly attributed to Blaise, and witnessed by the guards, but ignored the source of that power by continuing to insist Blaise reject Christ.
Blaise refused to renounce his faith and was tortured and beheaded. He is often depicted in paintings and statues as having two crossed candles in his hands or being in a cave with wild animals. The portrayal of Blaise with two crossed candles is the reason the priest uses two crossed candles during the blessing of throats.
Those suffering from throat illnesses and diseases can pray the following prayer of St. Blaise:
“O God, deliver us through the intercession of thy holy bishop and martyr Blaise, from all evil of soul and body, especially from all ills of the throat; and grant us the grace to make a good confession in the confident hope of obtaining thy pardon, and ever to praise with worthy lips thy most holy name. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen”