Saint Blaise, a bishop of ancient Sebastea (now in Turkey), was also a physician. Hence, like Saint Luke, he was a 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, as it is 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 is invoked 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 sent to the north of Europe, Germany, Saxony and even to Sweden, which was, in part due to this saint, fully converted to the Catholic Church – that is, until the Protestant reformation destroyed all that. Now it is secular, socialist and even largely atheist. Such is the inevitable drift, as Newman wrote, when any nation and people leave the ‘one true Church’ which, for all its problems, is still the ‘pillar and bulwark of truth’.
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 his, 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.
God is always working in the background, regardless of how tumultuous the world may seem.
Saints Blaise and Ansgar, orate pro nobis!