St Blaise

(entered heaven around 316)

Dear Blanche,

God is into ecology.  Actually, he made ecology – he made the earth too, and everything in it.  But he is really into conservation; he lets nothing go to waste, not even something so seemingly purposeless as your current bout with bronchitis.  As you suffer through it and (I hope) get over it, take advantage of it, just as we should all take advantage of every sickness and injury, small or large, that our Lord permits to come our way.  Use the extra time on your hands for prayer, for a childlike conversation with our Lord. Use it to reflect on the fragility of your life, on the stability of God’s love, on the sufferings that our Lord underwent in order to open up heaven’s gates to you.  We tend to adopt the quite unchristian view of sickness that the commercials want us to adopt – sickness as a pure inconvenience. The Christian view, however, is quite different.

Suffering of all kinds is always a channel of grace in the lives of the saints.  Like today’s saint, good old Blaise, about whom we know next to nothing. For sure, he was a young bishop in Armenia, who was martyred there in the fourth century.  Other than that, it’s hard to sift out the true tales from the tall tales. But a long tradition holds that he performed many miracles before he was taken by the persecutors, including curing a boy who was on the point of death because a fish bone got stuck in his throat (which is why St Blaise is the patron of all throat ailments).  Supposedly, he used to cure wild animals that came to the cave where he took refuge at the outbreak of persecution. In fact, that’s how he was found out. One day a group of hunters tracked all their prey to the cave of St Blaise, where the animals were seeking protection. Though the pagans were amazed, they bound the saint and turned him into the governor.  While he was in prison awaiting his execution, the mother of the fishbone boy brought him some candles to relieve the dungeon’s cold and darkness. This is the origin of the candles-on-the-throat blessing often given today, which exemplifies perfectly God’s conservationism: he wants to make the most trivial experiences (like that of a sore throat) into occasions of grace.  And if we had a little more faith, we would eagerly let him! Count on my prayers.

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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