Hebrews 13:15-17, 20-21
Today is St. Blase Day, my favorite saintís day. I sing Irish folk music and a sore throat can be an annoyance at best, and if I actually get a paying gig, a bigger disappointment. I actually get paying gigs in March, so getting my throat blessed in February is great protection. St. Blase Day comes right after the day of another of my favorite saints, St. Bridget. On St. Bridgetís day all the candles for the church year are blessed at Candlemas, so those newly blessed candles can be used for the throat blessings the next day. Saint Blase is the patron of physicians and also of candle makers (using the candles to bless the throats) and I also make candles. Itís a craft I enjoy but I also sell them, so I guess itís a second side business. So the beginning of February gives me two church days that help my two side businesses.
All the shepherd stuff in the readings might seem incongruous with St. Blase who was a doctor and a bishop. He intercedes for sore throats because by legend he saved a boy who was choking on a fish bone. St. Blase, then Bishop Blase, or in this circumstance Dr. Blase, got the fish bone out of the choking boyís throat and saved a life, using his medical skills. And when Blase was martyred, he was ordered starved to death but his people who loved him, especially the boyís mother brought him food and also candles to stave off the darkness. From this we get his connection to candles and to throats. When he didnít starve to death he had to be martyred some other way so he was flayed with a wool comb then beheaded. He is often pictured in iconography holding a candle and a wool comb: the instrument of his torture and martyrdom. He is also patron of wool combers which seems to me a testimony of his refusal to bear a grudge. When he was hiding out from his oppressors he doctored the animals and they hid and protected him. He was friends with sheep, but the wool comb was the instrument of his torture. As a bishop and a doctor he was so beloved by his people that they risked their own lives to feed him and bring him light. He was their shepherd.
Like the first reading, Blase continued to praise God even through his martyrdom and in emulation of Christ he was a shepherd to his people and with his love of animals was probably also kind to real sheep. He was kind and generous to his people as a doctor, then as a bishop. I will be taking advantage of that generosity today when I get my throat blessed through the intercession of St. Blase, bishop and martyr. Iíll ask for blessings for my throat and for my candles that I may better sing the praises of God and light the way.
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