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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume I: January. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

February 3

St. Blase, Bishop and Martyr

        The four modern different Greek acts of this saint are of small authority. Bollandus has supplied this deficiency by learned remarks.

A.D. 316.

HE was bishop of Sebaste in Armenia, and was crowned with martyrdom in the persecution of Licinius, in 316, by the command of Agricolaus, governor of Cappadocia and the lesser Armenia. It is mentioned in the acts of St. Eustratius, who received the crown of martyrdom in the reign of Dioclesian, and is honoured on the 13th of December, that St. Blase, the bishop of Sebaste, honourably received his relics, deposited them with those of St. Orestes, and punctually executed every article of the last will and testament of St. Eustratius. His festival is kept a holiday in the Greek church on the 11th of February. He is mentioned in the ancient Western Martyrologies which bear the name of St. Jerom, Ado and Usuard, with several more ancient manuscript Martyrologies, quoted by Chatelain, which place his name on the 15th. In the holy war his relics were dispersed over the West, and his veneration was propagated by many miraculous cures, especially of sore throats. He is the principal patron of the commonwealth of Ragusa. 1 No other reason than the great devotion of the people to this celebrated martyr of the church seems to have given occasion to the wool-combers to choose him the titular patron of their profession: on which account his festival is still kept by them with a solemn guild at Norwich. Perhaps also his country might in part determine them to this choice: for it seems that the first branch, or at least hint of this manufacture, was borrowed from the remotest known countries of the East, as was that of silk: or the iron combs, with which he is said to have been tormented, gave occasion to this choice.
  The iron combs, hooks, racks, swords, and scaffolds, which were purpled with the blood of the martyrs, are eternal proofs of their invincible courage and constancy in the divine service. But are they not at the same time subjects of our condemnation and confusion? How weak are our resolutions! How base our pusillanimity and cowardice in the pursuit of virtue! We have daily renewed our most sacred baptismal engagements, and our purposes of faithfully serving God; these we have often repeated at the feet of God’s ministers, and in presence of his holy altars; and we have often begun our conversion with great fervour. Yet these fair blossoms were always nipped in the bud: for want of constancy we soon fell back into our former sloth and disorders, adding to our other prevarications that of base infidelity. Instead of encountering gibbets and wild beasts, we were scared at the sight of the least difficulty; or we had not courage to make the least sacrifice of our passions, or to repulse the weakest and most contemptible assaults of the world. Its example, or that dangerous company from which we had not resolution to separate ourselves, carried us away: and we had not courage to withstand those very maxims which we ourselves condemn in the moments of our serious reflections, as contrary to the spirit of the gospel. Perhaps we often flew back for fear of shadows, and out of apprehensions frequently imaginary, lest we should forfeit some temporal advantage, some useful or agreeable friend. Perhaps we were overcome by the difficulties which arose barely from ourselves, and wanted resolution to deny our senses, to subdue our passions, to renounce dangerous occasions, or to enter upon a penitential life. Blinded by self-love, have we not sheltered our dastardly pusillanimity under the cloak of pretended necessity, or even virtue?  2
Note 1. See Bollandus, Pagi ad an. 316. Chatelain, Notes on the Martyr, p. 507. and Jos. Assemani in Cal. Univ. ad 11 Feb. t. 6. p. 123. [back]