Feast of St. Blaise and Blessing of Throats

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.”

5837439240_bcba32e267_nI 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.

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2 Responses to Feast of St. Blaise and Blessing of Throats

  1. Jen MacArthur says:

    As a campus minister at a school for young girls, grades 7-12, we focused our worship on the use of our voices and our speech. This was the Call to Worship I wrote in cooperation with our Kairos leaders:
    While the focus of this feast is typically on the protection against throat diseases and illness, we’d like to encourage you to think a bit more broadly about the need for a blessing not just of our throats but of our voices. Our voices have amazing power, and we use them for so many things throughout the course of a year at Villa. We’ve worked on Kairos this year, where we share our stories and build relationships. Think of the many ways you use your voice:
    to stand for a position in Mock Trial,
    to deliver the news,
    to coach and to teach,
    to raise the spirits of our teammates,
    to ask for help when we don’t understand an assignment,
    to share the needs of those in our community,
    to build up someone who needs to hear from a friend,
    to read scripture or a petition or a reflection at mass.
    We can use our voices to lift us up when we sing. When we join our voices together, we can make a positive difference. So often lately, we have heard about how voices can tear down and divide. Being aware of that reality, let us accept the blessing of our throats and commit to using our voices to express the Gospel message of love and work toward building a peaceful community with our words.

  2. Peg Conway says:

    Jen, that’s so beautiful!!!! Thank you for adding it here.

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