“Through the intercession of St. 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.”
I can still hear the droning voice of my early childhood pastor repeating the above blessing as person after person came up the aisle to have the crossed white taper candles placed on their throats and the words said . This would have been about 1968, and the memory is vivid. Initially I was terrified when the ritual was described to me, because I thought the candles would be lit! Our family lore from that era is that my younger brother, then age 3-1/2, frequently choked on bacon so we made a special point to have our throats blessed. Voila! He stopped choking after that. Little is really known about St. Blaise, who lived in the early fourth-century and is thought to be from Armenia. The story of St. Blaise rescuing a young boy who had a fish bone caught in his throat seems to be the basis of the blessing custom. He was very popular in the Middle Ages. Personally I don’t recall throat blessings in my childhood beyond the one described here, but it seems more common again now. The practice could well be renewed for contemporary circumstances. Though not typically considered “ailments of the throat,” it is through the throat that we take nourishment into ourselves (or not) and put our thoughts out to the world as speech. Both aspects are in need of healing. St. Blaise, may we be delivered of unhealthy habits of eating and led to speak truth with charity.
Photo by trench_mouth via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.