Saint Blaise, a bishop of ancient Sebastea (now in Turkey), was also a physician – healer of body and soul – and, we may add, a martyr, tortured to death for the faith in 316 A.D., a scant three years after Constantine declared the faith legally sanctioned in Roman law. Sometimes, however, law takes some time to have its effect, to be promulgated and enforced, and persecution we will always have with us in one way or another.
While in prison, it is recounted that Blaise cured a young boy who was choking on a fishbone; hence, his intercession for ailments of the throat, and the blessing given in his name on this day using the two forked candles. A worthy devotion, through which God may work miracles.
Today we also celebrate Saint Ansgar (+865), an ascetic, mystic and missionary of the north of Europe, Germany, Saxony and even to Sweden, which was fully Catholic until the Protestant reformation, and, as Newman predicted with all jettisoning of the one true faith, now secular, socialist, and soon, one may ponder, Islamic.
Ansgar’s youthful conversion occurred when he saw his deceased mother in the presence of the Virgin Mary, which convinced him of the truth of the Faith, sustaining him through the trials ahead. The main difficulty for Ansgar was not the Muslims (although they nearly took Europe in the generation before him, many miles south, in France at the battle of Tours 735), but rather the political upheavals and the raids of the Danish Vikings. Ansgar suffered and worked with a peaceful soul through it all, seeing God’s pure and constant will behind the chaos, the salvation of the souls under his care.
Saints Blaise and Ansgar, orate pro nobis!