The beaches of Cape San Blas are sunswept and golden. I am on a porch, only 500 feet from the serene Gulf of Mexico. Palmettos and pines moving in gentle gusts of tropical air.
This is the beach where I first had the idea to ask a girl named Jamie to marry me. We vacationed here when I lost my job so that I could lick my wounds and rebuild my life. We came here after my wife’s father died, for similar reasons.
When I was rejected from a major university, sent packing with my hat in hand, we came here. Because there’s something restorative about the cape.
It does something to me. Always has. It’s like stepping into a calmer version of the world. A place free from loud, frightening headlines and cable news.
These are the same picturesque shores where huge square-rigged Spanish ships once anchored themselves. Where men in brass helmets explored for fountains of immortality and shiny rocks.
To the naked eye the cape is a peninsula dividing Saint Joe Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. But when your feet hit this shore, there’s a rich sensation felt in your chest. It’s rejuvenating, and strong enough to make you forget about pandemics for a moment.
It’s the same wondrous feeling you get when standing on the banks of the Chesapeake, or in the Rockies, or in Arches National Park, or at Talladega Superspeedway.
Five hundred years ago the Spanish boats would have been moored within eyeshot from where I’m sitting. The ships would’ve had lots of sails, and huge crews.
Sailors would’ve been climbing the towering foremasts, mainmasts, mizzenmasts, dropping the spanker sails, and the four jib sheets. The white fabric would’ve been blinding in the Floridian sunlight.
Search parties would’ve come ashore in dinghies. Men in bright armor would have leapt out and been met by coastal Native Americans.
“Hi,” the Spanish would have said to the friendly natives. “Now get off our land.”
I don’t know how this peninsula got its name, but the first European who stuck a flag into this dirt obviously believed it was a healing place. Because he called it “San Blas.” Which is the Spanish name for Saint Blaise, who you probably already know is the famous and well-loved Catholic patron saint of Lite Beer.
No. I’m only kidding. The patron saint of beer is actually Saint Arnold. I know this because I once worked with a guy from Belgium who had to cancel two weeks of work to fly home and attend the Feast of Saint Arnold, also known as “Day of Beer.” I’ve never been so mad about covering someone’s shifts.
But Saint Blaise of Sebaste was an exceptional guy. For one thing, he lived during a time of intense religious persecution by the Roman empire. When the world got too dangerous for him, Blaise fled to the mountains for safety.
He could have just laid low and lived under the radar, but that’s not how a typical saint operates. Blaise was a physician. Instead of keeping quiet he set up a doc-in-the-box medical practice in the woods.
The old man worked from the solace of his little cave, helping heal the sick and infirm. People came from miles seeking his touch. Whereupon Blaise would lay hands upon them and say in his sweet physician’s voice, “Does your HMO provider have a copay?”
Of course I am kidding again. The truth is, in many stories Blaise is described as a miracle man, not just a medical guy. But whatever he was, it’s clear that he was special. He took care of hurting people when they needed help. I have known many like Blaise in my life.
But healing was not a good business to specialize in during 316 AD. Saints like him tended to have enemies who were very bad dudes.
When Blaise’s enemies found him, they arrived with teams of hunting dogs, torches, and ropes. He didn’t even resist.
And when they were dragging the old doc off to prison, bound at the wrists, a woman came running out of the woods. She chased Blaise, calling his name, shouting, “Help me! My son is choking!”
Now I want to pause here because—for one thing—you need to yawn. Also, I want you to visualize this scenario:
Blaise of Sebaste is practically hogtied, surrounded by captors, on his way to die a gruesome martyr’s death, and here’s some loud woman running toward him, shouting his name, carrying her toddler, asking for his medical attention.
And what does he do? Does he shrug her off? Does he say, “Look, lady, can’t you see I’m kinda tied up at the moment?”
No. He looks at the limp child whose lips are blue and places his palms upon the boy’s throat. Then he says a few words to the sky. And he does this in the presence of his killers.
The child starts moving. Then the boy coughs up a fishbone and recovers immediately. The woman thanks Blaise. And Blaise is murdered shortly thereafter. How can mankind be so cruel? How, I ask.
But Blaise wasn’t forgotten. Because you cannot kill a man who heals. Not really. And so it was that Blaise’s name spread across oceans, continents, jungles, and tribes. It mingled its way into thousands of cultures. In Brazil he is São Brás. In Croatia he is Sveti Blaž. And in Cornwall, he was called Blazey. In Iceland, he is Blasíus. And in India: Sao Bras.
Here in the Sunshine State it’s just plain old San Blas. To us it’s just a simple word used to describe a sandy patch of Earth. That’s all it is. Just a name.
But it certainly is a healing one.
jimmybpool - October 30, 2020 7:41 am
A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.
Virginia Russell - October 30, 2020 10:49 am
turtlekid - October 30, 2020 10:54 am
Thank you for researching the history of Blaise. Very interesting and detailed, even with your humorous asides!! Love how your quirky brain thinks of these clever memes, you know how to punch them in. 😀
Leslie in NC - October 30, 2020 11:19 am
A man after my own heart,Sean! My son, who is now 42, practically grew up camping at San Blas as a little boy. We lived in Tallahassee and about every other weekend and every holiday weekend from spring through fall on Fridays after I got off work, we’d load up my car and head over to the Cape to camp in the state park campground. In the 80s, that was way before any houses were built there. It was indeed my healing place. White sand beach, beautiful water and a tranquility I’ve never experienced since. Although I now live in the mountains of western North Carolina, which is beautiful as well, no place will ever compare to the healing touch of Cape San Blas.
Gary Woods - October 30, 2020 12:29 pm
Just got home a couple days ago from a month in that area and it is a healing place, the people, the towns, the food and manly the peace. We’ve spent time there for 15+ years, it is Mayberry on the water. As are all precious things, it is very easily lost too. I pray the civic leaders in this area realize this and aren’t blinded by “growth and prosperity” as were the ones in my small town. Once it’s gone it’s gone forever. If people want another Panama City, it’s just west on Old 98.
Jane - October 30, 2020 12:56 pm
We all need to find our healing place. Mine is in a speck on the map called Luna MO.
Lori Brown - October 30, 2020 1:10 pm
Cape San Blas (sigh…) I love it there. If I ever leave my Kentucky home to live anywhere else in the world, I will go there in a heartbeat! It feels like home to me. Thank you for making me homesick 🙂
Margaret - October 30, 2020 1:43 pm
Sean, I don’t know how you write day in and day out and keep us reading ‘til the last word every day, but you do….and I am so grateful!
Dianne DeVore - October 30, 2020 1:47 pm
There is nothing more healing to my body and soothing to my soul as the Gulf Coast/Panhandle. I have loved it since the first time I saw it at four years of age, and now as I approach 77, I love it just as much, if not more. Upon arriving and seeing the sand and water, it is like I have taken an entire bottle of Valium. The world is right, my soul and spirit are right with the world. No place in the world like the Panhandle of the Gulf Coast.
Deborah Weeks - October 30, 2020 1:53 pm
One of the best places on earth! We love the Cape and have been going there for 20 years or so. It has changed quite a bit over the years but it is still a place of healing.
Verona Walton - October 30, 2020 1:54 pm
Just vacationed there in Sept. We were in a sweet little blue cottage up on stilts. Lovely. Loved reading your daily posts. Thank you.
Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - October 30, 2020 2:23 pm
I had never heard the story of that name. Worthy of being named a saint for sure
elizabethroosje - October 30, 2020 2:38 pm
great retelling of the story of this Saint! I love how their stories never leave and surface like this… such love shown! Surely that Cape is a blessed place! I really enjoyed this and the reminder of such great love!
peggybilbro - October 30, 2020 3:10 pm
This made me sigh a happy sigh. Thank you for being you Sean.
Linda Moon - October 30, 2020 5:32 pm
I like it when you’re kidding and then lead us readers to sometimes miraculous or profound truth in your stories. The healing story of San Blas is something new I learned today, and I love to learn, Teacher!
Suzanne Moore - October 30, 2020 6:17 pm
I love Cape San Blas, and I love your writing. Both speak to my soul whenever I encounter them.
AlaRedClayGirl - October 30, 2020 7:09 pm
Visiting Cape San Blas has been on my bucket list for a while now. BTW, Catholics still honor Saint Blaise. On February 3 or the Sunday closest to it, the priest gives an individual throat blessing to any parishioner after Mass (service).
Anne Arthur - October 30, 2020 7:16 pm
I just need one thing now – sitting at San Blas and getting my soul soothed.
Love this story. Whoever named the bay must have immediately recognized its healing powers… and you bring it to life.
Anne Arthur - October 30, 2020 7:19 pm
Yes! For obvious reasons it’s the day of throat blessing for all who have a problem, or no problem. That was the first thing I had in mine when I started reading Sean’s story today.
Marilyn Warner - October 30, 2020 8:50 pm
Just spent a few days on Ft. Morgan beach…what a blissful, calm, rejuvenating time we had after being isolated for so long. thank you God for creating these wonderful places of rest!
stephenpe - October 31, 2020 9:49 am
When I was a child the gulf for us was Nokomis. Casey Key. Right on the gulf where we lived like Tom Sawyer for two weeks. Catching snook, finding handfulls of sharks teeth, healing all the sore, boils and wounds we had aquired as youngsters living in the woods of Alachua County. Salt water is healing. Then we grew up and had kids of our own. So our families now with six grandchildren (our kids along with our dad) would head to CSB for a week. The sand is the first thing you notice. That famous white quartz sand. The salt works. RUnning up to Appalachiciola for fresh oysters and shrimp so MIke could make us a gourmet meal. Mike was the middle brother. And the fishing. ALways the fishing. Our kids grew up and those days are done. I enjoy your journeys each morning, Sean. Btw Mike has a Sean. He just finished rehab for the 2nd time. We love him, pray for him and hope for the best just like I hope for you…………..
Sheila Herb - October 31, 2020 4:55 pm
Very interesting. Thank you.
Christina - October 31, 2020 6:03 pm
Thanks be to God for these healing places, stories and saints.
shutterspeedmediaone - October 31, 2020 11:59 pm
I’m indebted to a friend for telling me about you. I just ordered two of your books and am anxious to read them. Your writing style interest me, especially your way of describing the coastal area near your home. I live in Mobile, Alabama, and have a sailboat, which is docked in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Sailing the Mississippi Sound is great, especially having Petit Bois Island and Horn Island within easy reach. This past September some friends and I were planning a sailing trip to San Blas to hunt for scallops but a nasty hurricane ruined our plans. I’m looking forward to reading more of your stuff.
Carolyn - November 2, 2020 7:03 pm
Hi Sean! I am blessed to be able to call Cape San Blas home. Moved down here about 5 years ago, leaving the Atlanta rat-race behind. We had been coming here for years on vacation, and I always said that my soul feels at peace here. It is definitely a place of healing – like Jamie, I came when my Mom died to try to heal and find peace. It’s something about the Cape – hey, maybe because of our patron saint – Blaise of Sebaste! Anyway, it was because of you writing something about Cape San Blas a year or so ago, that someone else shared your post and I found” you 🙂 Been following you ever since! Hope I see you one day on the beach. I’ll just wave in case you’re trying to get inspiration from a quiet walk on the beach. But just know that I consider you my friend! Enjoy your time on the Cape!
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - October 13, 2021 2:25 am