A good friend reminded me that today is Saint Blase day. I kid you not...St. Blase. Here's a little info on the man.
Bishop Blase was martyred in his episcopal city of Sebastea, Armenia, in 316. The legendary Acts of St. Blase were written 400 years later. Blase was known to be a good bishop, working hard to encourage the spiritual and physical health of his people; in other words, "a good man." Although the Edict of Toleration (311), granting freedom of worship in the Roman Empire, was already five years old, persecution still raged in Armenia. Now I really like this next part.
Blase was apparently forced to flee to the back country. There he lived as a hermit in solitude and prayer, but made friends with the wild animals. One day a group of hunters seeking wild animals for the amphitheater stumbled upon Blase’s cave (possibly an early version of The Dirty Shame?). They were first surprised and then frightened (I'd bet the biblical "fear and wonder"). The bishop was kneeling in prayer surrounded by patiently waiting wolves, lions and bears. Yes, give sweet St. Francis the squirrels, lambs and turtle doves; my namesake prays alongside those big enough to eat you, my dear.
As the hunters hauled Blase off to prison (why must the wild man always be locked up?), the legend has it, a mother came with her young son who had a fish bone lodged in his throat. At Blase’s command the child was able to cough up the bone. And so, St. Blase's gift is the blessing of the throat.
Agricolaus, governor of Cappadocia, tried to persuade Blase to sacrifice to pagan idols. The first time Blase refused, he was beaten. The next time he was suspended from a tree and his flesh torn with iron combs or rakes. Finally he was beheaded. The wolves, lions and bears watched from the margins and wept and vowed to be even wilder in his memory (I added this last sentence, but it reads well, don't you think?).
There you have it. Quite a legend, huh? My pastoral credentials are quite cattywampus these days, but with what powers I still have, well, here goes:
We've eaten the food of the empire and it's choking us. May the bones in our throats be coughed up, out and away. May we strive to be good men and women. May we sing once more like young sons who still walk with their mothers. May we pray yet again with the patiently waiting wolves, lions and bears. May our voices ring true in a tame world, wild but good, eliciting fear and wonder. They can have our heads, but not our hearts. Blessings on the throats of all. Over and out. Amen and amen.