Thursday, February 3, 2011

St. Blaise

Today we celebrate an Armenian Bishop and Martyr. Born in the 3rd century , he is known by most Catholics for the blessing of throats that is given today through his intercession. Why St. Blaise for throats and why do we use candles?

When we examine the earliest records of the life of St. Blaise, the most famous of the stories is the story of St. Blaise healing of a person with a bone stuck in their throat. This was by no means the only healing associated with his ministry, but was the story that gained the most long-lasting fame.

What do the candles have to do with this? In reality, nothing. The candles traditionally used in the blessing of throats are not linked to St. Blaise, but to yesterday's feast of the Presentation. Also known as Candlemas Day, February 2 has traditionally been the day for the blessing of candles, the symbol of Jesus Christ as the light of the world. It was based on this blessing of candles that the tradition grew up of using the newly blessed candles on February 3 to bless throats.

Once more we see how our church's liturgical cycle corresponds to the natural cycle of our world in the northern hemisphere. While February is the shortest month of the year, emotionally it can seem like the longest: gray cold,and dark. By the first of February most of us are yearning for the end of winter, and the coming of the light of spring. Cold, sore throats and flus make it an even more difficult time.

These celebrations on February 2 and 3 are signs of hope, reminders to us that Christ is the life, and the light that the darkness cannot overcome. The blessing of throats also reminds us that one of the powerful gifts that God has given to us is the gift of speech. As we pray for the intercession of St. Blaise to heal illness of the throat we also pray that we will choose to use that gift to speak words of faith, words of hope, words of love, and words of light.