2 Feb 2011

February 3rd: Memorial of St Blaise & the Blessing of Throats

Through the intercession of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.

February 3rd is the feast of St Blaise - bishop - and most people would generally associate it with the blessing of throats. Saint Blase was the bishop of Sebaste in Armenia during the fourth century. Very little is known about his life. According to various accounts he was a physician before becoming a bishop. His cult spread throughout the entire Church in the Middle Ages because he was reputed to have miraculously cured a little boy who nearly died because of a fishbone in his throat. From the eighth century he has been invoked on behalf of the sick, especially those afflicted with illnesses of the throat.

"Suffering and illness have always been among the greatest problems that trouble the human spirit. Christians feel and experience pain as do all other people; yet their faith helps them to grasp more deeply the mystery of suffering and to bear their pain with greater courage. . . . Part of the plan laid out by God's providence is that we should fight strenuously against all sickness and carefully seek the blessings of good health, so that we may fulfill our role in human society and in the Church". The blessing of the sick by ministers of the Church is a very ancient custom, rooted in imitation of Christ himself and his apostles"

The blessing may be given by touching the throat of each person with two candles blessed on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord (February 2) and which have been joined together in the form of a cross. If, for pastoral reasons, each individual cannot be blessed in the manner for example when great numbers are gathered for the blessing or when the memorial of Saint Blase occurs on a Sunday, a priest or deacon may give the blessing to all assembled by extending hands, without the crossed candles, over the people while saying the prayer of blessing.

As we gather to celebrate to invoke the intercession of this saint, how well do we welcome people who may not be frequent visitors to church who may come for traditions like the blessing of the throats? And aside from February 3rd, how many other times of the year do you remember to pray for the intercession of St Blaise?

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