Written by: Lawrence Lam
This past Sunday, if they weren’t rushing home to watch the Superbowl after mass, many people remained and lined up to receive the St. Blaise Feast blessing of the throats. Even though the fact that St. Blaise’s feast day landed on Sunday meant that the Feast itself was not celebrated, the blessing of the throats was carried out anyway and for many Catholics, this may have been their introduction to this ancient Saint. This odd ritual involving unlit candles placed over a penitent’s throat might also be part of the cradle Catholic’s cultural memory. I remember stopping into the school chapel to receive the blessing when it was made available and oftentimes claiming that I received a sore throat the next day. To this, one of my high school teachers replied, “That means that you would have had something even worse!” In jest, we often shared stories where coincidentally after receiving the blessing our throats would get scratchy or a cold would come on.
St. Blaise’s legacy dates back to the 4th century and though there are many stories of healing attributed to him, he is most known for saving the life of a boy choking on a fishbone, hence his association with throat ailments.
It’s instructive to remind ourselves to not make a superstition out of any devotion or sacramental. The various blessings on feast days are the church’s way of celebrating the courageous and miraculous lives of the saints, their intercession, God’s love and care for us, and the power of fraternal prayer. Like in any prayer or devotion, we humbly approach God and petition Him for healing or protection without any expectation and let Him work. What He does for us and how he does it often remains a mystery, as can be the case here.
This year, I’m fortunate to have escaped the flu epidemic that seems to have afflicted many of those around me. With only one third of Winter gone, I can’t be too presumptive, but do enjoy knowing I have the intercession of St. Blaise on my behalf.The Saints, by Catholic Chapter House.