Tuesday, February 02, 2016

St. Blaise and the Blessing of Throats

On February 3, we commemorate St. Blaise, a physician and Bishop of Sebaste, Armenia in the 4th century. He lived in a cave on Mount Argeus and was a healer of men and animals. Legend tells us that sick animals would come to him on their own for help, but would never disturb him at prayer.

As bishop, Blaise became a healer of souls and taught his people how to live a holy life by his example. His great virtues and sanctity were confirmed by many miracles.  Crowds came to him for the cure of both bodily and spiritual afflictions.

Agricola, the governor of Cappadocio, came to Sebaste to persecute Christians. His hunters discovered Blaise praying while seeking wild animals for the arena and arrested him as a Christian. Blaise was taken to prison, but on the way there he interceded to God on the behalf of a child who was choking to death on a fish bone. The child was cured, which led to the blessing of throats on Blaise's feast day.

Thrown into a lake to drown, Blaise stood on the water's surface and invited his persecutors to walk out and prove the power of their gods; they drowned. When he returned to land, he was martyred by being beaten, his flesh torn with wool combs (which led to his association with and patronage of those involved in the wool trade), and then beheaded.

In the holy wars, his relics were dispersed over Europe and veneration of St. Blaise was increased by many miraculous cures, especially of sore or diseased throats. Thus, he is the patron of those suffering from throat ailments.

One of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, St. Blaise became one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages.  His feast is celebrated as a holy day in some Eastern Churches. In 1222, the Council of Oxford banned servile work (heavy manual labor) in England on Blaise’s feast day. The Germans and Slavs are particularly devoted to him. Many United States Catholics have their throats blessed on his feast day annually.

Candles crossed in a special candelabrum used to bless throats.

Blessing of the Throats

This is the day when we, as Catholics, participate in the beautiful sacramental of having our throats blessed. The rite of the blessing of throats may take place before or after Mass.
 The aid of St. Blaise is asked in delivering the faithful from throat ailments and other evils.To do this, the priest consecrates two candles, generally by a prayer, and then holds each in a crossed position on the throat of the person being blessed. At the same time the following blessing is given: "Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from ailments of the throat and from every other evil. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

I have always enjoyed this day, not only because it is the time of year when I am prone to sore throats, but it shows how the Church is truly concerned with the bodily needs of the person as well as the spiritual needs.

Prayer to Saint Blaise

Dear bishop and lover of souls, you willingly bore heavy crosses in faithful imitation of Jesus. Similarly, with Christlike compassion you cured many sufferers. Then after undergoing horrible torture, you died as a martyr for Christ. Obtain a cure for these {describe the afflictions} ills if this is agreeable to God. Amen.

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