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St. BlasePublic Domain

(LifeSiteNews) — Now that the Church has closed the joyous period of her forty days of Christmas, and is putting us through a course of meditations on subjects which are to excite a spirit of penance within us, each of the saints’ feasts must produce an impression, which shall be in accordance with that spirit. From this day till Easter, we will study the saints, as they come to us, in this special light — how much they labored and suffered during their pilgrimage of life, and what was the plan they took for conquering the world and the flesh. They went, says the Psalmist, and wept, casting their seeds: but coming they shall come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves. (Psalm 125:6-7) It shall be the same with us; and, at the end of our Lenten labors, our Risen Jesus shall hail us as His living, regenerated, children.

The calendar of this portion of the year abounds with martyrs; and, at the very onset, we meet with one of the most celebrated of these glorious champions of Christ. The scene of his pastoral virtues and his martyrdom, was Sebaste, a city of Armenia, the same that will give us forty martyred soldiers on a single day. The devotion to St. Blase is, even to this day, most fervently kept up in the East, especially in Armenia. The Western Churches soon began to love and honor his memory, and so universally, that we might call him one of the most popular of our saints. His feast, however, with us, is only a simple, and the Church of Rome has given a mere Lesson on his Life.

Blase, whose signal virtues made him dear to the people of Sebaste in Armenia, was chosen bishop of that city. When the Emperor Dioclesian waged his cruel persecution against the Christians, the saint hid himself in a cave on mount Argeus, and there he remained sometime concealed, but was at length discovered by some soldiers of the governor Agricolaus, whilst they were hunting. They led him to the governor, who gave orders that he should be put into prison.

During his imprisonment, many sick people, attracted by the reputation of his sanctity, came to him, and he healed them. Among these was a boy, whose life was despaired of by the physicians, on account of his having swallowed a bone, which could not be extracted from his throat. The saint was twice brought before the governor, but neither fair promises nor threats could induce him to offer sacrifice to the gods. Whereupon, he was first beaten with rods, and then his flesh was torn with iron hooks whilst he lay stretched on the rack. At length, he was beheaded, and nobly gave testimony to the faith of Christ Our Lord, on the third of the Nones of February (February 3).

Accept, glorious martyr, the praise which we, too, offer thee in union with that given thee by the whole Church. In return for this homage of our veneration, look down upon the Christian people, who are now preparing to enter on the season of penance, and be converted to the Lord their God by holy compunction and tears. We ask it of thee by thine own combat, assist us in the one for which we are preparing. When duty required thee to undergo tortures and death, it found thee ready and brave; our duty is expiation by penance, and thy prayers must get us courage. Our enemies are not more cruel than thine, but they are more treacherous, and if we spare them, we are lost. Obtain for us that heavenly assistance, which enabled thee to conquer.

We are children of the martyrs; God forbid we should be degenerate! Pray, too, O holy pontiff, for the country thou didst water with thy blood. Armenia lost the faith for which thou didst lay down thy life. Intercede for her, that she may be restored to the Church, and let her conversion bring consolation to the few that have remained orthodox and faithful.

This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Guéranger (1841-1875). LifeSiteNews is grateful to The Ecu-Men website for making this classic work easily available online.