Monday, February 3, 2014

Feast of Saint Blase

Today, is the Feast of Saint Blase. I always thought his name should be spelled Blaise, otherwise his name looks like blasé. Blase was a physician, Bishop, and a later a martyr (fast track to sainthood) around the 5th or 6th century. Supposedly, he cured a child who was choking on a fish bone. Blase was the saint you asked to protect you from illness and diseases of the throat. 

When I was in elementary school, the nuns would herd us across the street to the lower church every 3. February (if the day fell on a school day) for a Mass and blessing of the throat ceremony. We were probably too noisy or it would take too long for the some 200 or 300 of us to go to Mass with the adults upstairs.

At the ceremony, we'd line up by class along the altar rail. The priest and an altar boy would come down the line stopping at each child. The priest held a pair of crossed candles and shoved the V of the candles under the neck. At the same time and very quickly like he was an auctioneer, he would intone the blessing:
Through the intercession of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (He said Ghost back in the olden days). He'd make the Sign of the Cross and move on down the line. 

As a little kid, I was terrified of the candles. They weren't the delicate, dining room tapers pictured here, but the honking, size of your mother's arm candles. I'd worry that the candles would be lit and my beanie (part of the school uniform) and my hair would catch on fire. As the candles were jammed under the throat, each kid would make an involuntary choking sound, try to respond Amen while making the Sign of the Cross before returning to the pew.

Even though St. Blase had his own feast day, he must have been a minor saint because we never got his day off from school. On holy days of obligation, the feast day of St. Patrick (17. March), patron saint of the school, and the feast of St. Joseph (19. March) patron saint of the order of the nuns who taught at the school, we'd be dismissed and sent home after Mass.

Was the ceremony effective? It probably had the same success rate as a rodent predicting the end of winter, but certainly didn't hurt.  Wait, I think I smell ozone! 

1 comment:

  1. The strange ceremonies we humans come up with never ceases to amaze me! I'd never heard this one before.