Friday, February 3, 2012

Cool Catholic traditions: Blessing of the Throats

A priest blesses parishioners' throats on the Feast of St. Blaise

Today, many Catholics carry on a very old (and very cool) tradition: the blessing of the throats. Today is the Feast Day of St. Blaise and for centuries, on this day, Catholics have had a custom of blessing throats, asking for God to preserve our throats from illness. 

How does the "blessing of the throats" work? 
Candles to be used during the blessing.

Well, here's how it goes down: During the blessing (which usually takes place either before or after the daily Mass), the priest holds two candles tied together with a red ribbon in the form of a cross at the throat of the person seeking a blessing and prays aloud: "Through the intersession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God preserve you from throat troubles and every other evil. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

Beyond that - as with any prayer - the mechanics and the effectiveness are matters of faith, and are up to God alone. 

Who was St. Blaise and how did blessing throats become associated with his feast day?

Statue of St. Blaise.
St. Blaise was a physician who became the bishop of a city called Sabastea in what is now Turkey in the latter part of the third century. He died as a martyr for the faith in AD 316 and from soon after his death, he was hailed and venerated as a saint. 

Few details are known about St. Blaise. According to tradition, he lived a life of prayer and fasting in a cave just outside of Sabastea. It is said that he healed injured animals and that the sincerity of his faith served as a great inspiration for all who knew him.

One very old story about this holy bishop was that, through his intercession, God miraculously healed a young boy who had a fish bone stuck in his throat. For this reason, the prayers of St. Blaise have long been invoked for those threatened by or suffering from injuries and illnesses of the throat.

Remember: Catholic traditions such as the blessing of the throats are venerable and are a wonderful part of our faith. But they aren't acts of superstition. We should approach this and all "cool Catholic traditions" as an important part of our Catholic patrimony (something that we have inherited and must pass on) that draws us prayerfully closer to our Lord and to his Church.

Happy St. Blaise's Day!