Candlemas and St Blaise
This Wednesday 2nd February is Candlemas. It may also be called the Feast of the Purification of Our Lady or the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, and it marks the traditional end of Christmastide, forty days after Our Lord’s Nativity. Therefore, after Wednesday the crib and Christmas tree will be taken down from the church. Candlemas is always followed on the 3rd February by the feast of the Bishop and Martyr, St Blaise.
St Blaise lived in the early fourth century. Before he became a priest he was a physician and he was known for his kindness and piety, and it is said that he specialised in diseases of the throat. He eventually realised that God was calling him to be a physician of souls instead, and so he gave his life to Christ by becoming a priest. At some point he was a hermit, and rather like St Francis of Assisi, he made friends with the wild animals. They would flock around him and he would heal them. Then he was nominated as Bishop of Sebastea which is modern-day Armenia. He was an excellent bishop, but then the Emperor Diocletian began a persecution of Christians. Blaise, having hidden himself in a cave was captured and ordered to renounce his faith in Christ. Of course he refused, so he was beaten with rods and sent off to prison. On the way to prison he was passed by a mother whose child was choking on a fish bone in his throat. Blaise blessed the boy enabling him to cough up the bone, and thus his throat was healed. It is for this reason that we bless throats on the feast of St Blaise, a tradition brought to England by the Rosminian Fathers. Blaise once again refused to renounce Christ, and so after terrible tortures he was beheaded.
So we invoke St Blaise against diseases and harm to the throat, the tongue and anything to do with the mouth. But more importantly, we also invoke his protection against diseases of the soul. So in addition to asking his protection against physical ailments of the throat, we also ask his protection against sins like gossiping, swearing, slandering, gluttony and so on, because these sins harm our souls. A priest will bless throats after both the 9.15am and 6.30pm Masses on Thursday (Candlemas), and after the 6.30pm Mass on Friday, the feast of St Blaise.
The priest holding two unlighted candles blessed the previous day (Candlemas), and holding them in the form of a cross, places them on the throat and under the chin of the person to be blessed saying:
Through the intercession of St Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, may God keep you free from all harm to your throat, and from all other harm besides. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Anyone may come forward for this blessing. You don’t need to be Catholic. And let us all aspire to the greatness of St Blaise and strive to use our faculties (in this case our throats) for God’s glory.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC