3 February: St. Blaise

San Carlo ai CatinariEvery time I get my throat blessed on St. Blaise Day, I get a sore throat or bronchitis.  As a matter of fact, every time I bless a car it gets in an accident.  One person whom I warned about this, and indeed was in a accident soon after, came back to me and said, "Imagine how bad it would have been if you hadn’t blessed it!"  So, ever the optimist, I keep going back each year for a blessing of the throat.

Today is the Feast of St. Blaise, about whom we know very little.   We have only this very brief entry in the Martyrologium Romanum:

Santi Blasii, episcopi et martyris, qui pro christiano nomine Sabaste in Armenia passus est sub Licino imperatore. … [Feast of] St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, who suffered for the name of Christ in Sabaste in Armenia under the Emperor Licinus.

That "pro Christiano nomine" probably needs to be rendered as "for the name of Christ" along the lines of rendering dies dominica or oratio dominica as, respectively, "the Lord’s Day = Sunday" or "the Lord’s Prayer".  It is entirely possible, of course, just to keep it literal and say, "for the Christian name", which would be pretty much the same thing in the balance.  Either way, he was killed because as a Christian Blaise professed Christ’s name.

COLLECT:
Exaudi, Domine, populum tuum,
cvm beati Blasii martyris patrocinio supplicantem,
ut et temporalis vitae nos tribuas pace gaudere,
et aeternae reperire subsidium.

LITERAL TRANSLATION:
O Lord, graciously hear Your people
begging by means of the patronage of blessed martyr Blaise,
that you grant us to delight in the peace of temporal life
and obtain the protection of eternal life.

I take away from this prayer the serious message that life is dangerous.  The word subsidium means "support, assistance, aid, help, protection" and often in liturgical Latin "help".  Either way, subsidium sets up a stark contrast between the life we have now and the life to come.  Even the phrase about enjoying the peace of this life, indicates subtly how precarious everything is in this earthly existence which Catholics are accustomed to call a "vale of tears".

This is firmed up by another wonderful prayer associated with St. Blaise.  You all know about the blessing of throats on the feast of St. Blaise.  Once upon a time, in the older form of the Rituale Romanum there was a marvelous blessing for the candles used to confer the blessing of throats.  Here it is:

Relic of St. BlaiseBLESSING OF CANDLES ON THE FEAST OF ST. BLAISE:

O God most powerful and most kind, Who didst create all the different things in the world by the Word alone, and Whose will it was that this Word by Which all things were made should become incarnate for the remaking of mankind; Thou Who art great and limitless, worthy of reverence and praise, the worker of wonders; for Whose sake the glorious Martyr and Bishop, St. Blaise, joyfully gained the palm of martyrdom, never shrinking from any kind of torture in confessing his faith in Thee; Thou Who didst give to him, amongst other gifts, the prerogative of curing by Thy power every ailment of men’s throats; humbly we beg Thee in Thy majesty not to look upon our guilt, but, pleased by his merits and prayers, in Thine awe-inspiring kindness, to bless+this wax created by Thee and to sanc+tify it, pouring into it Thy grace; so that all who in good faith shall have their throats touched by this wax may be freed from every ailment of their throats through the merit of his suffering, and, in good health and spirits, may give thanks to Thee in Thy holy Church and praise Thy glorious name, which is blessed for ever and ever.  Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who with Thee lives and reigns, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end.  R. Amen.

Ah!  What a pleasure that prayer is!  Or course, the candles are to be sprinkled with holy water after the blessing.  Maybe you should print this out and take it to your parish priest "with Fr. Z’s compliments".  It might be that he doesn’t have this text and perhaps would like to (or you would like to) have your throat blessed in Latin!
 
Here is the Blessing for throats:

Per intercessionem Sancti Blasii, episcopi et martyris,
liberet te Deus a malo gutturis, et a quolibet alio malo.
In nomine Patris, et Filii +, et Spiritus Sancti.  Amen.

Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr,
may God free you from illness of the throat and from any other sort of ill.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

I will never forget this formula.  Long ago, as a deacon, I lived at the Church of San Carlo ai Catinari, which is also dedicated to St. Blaise as co-patron.  The Barnabites there have in their possession relics of St. Blaise.  There is one in a large reliquary and one in a crystal placed on a large ring held in the fist of one hand (click the photo to see a larger image and inside the crystal).   This is what they used to bless throats on this feast.  

I was asked by the clergy there to help with blessing the throats of the people who thronged to the church that day.  As soon as I donned my surplice every other cleric actually attached to the place vanished.  I was left there for several hours.  I can’t say how many times I said that formula that day.

Here is an action shot of the priest today, blessing.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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14 Responses to 3 February: St. Blaise

  1. Victor says:

    Oh Father, oh Father!
    What about St Ansgar, who is celebrated today and whose name I (amongst others) bear?

  2. Victor: Buon onomastico!

  3. Father: Maybe I’m glad you’ve never blessed my home….

    LOL!

  4. DJ says:

    News on the Motu Proprio:

    Robert Moynihan of Inside the Vatican, currently in Naples, Florida, confirmed last night at a Legatus meeting that his sources say that the Motu Proprio will be issued on the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Feb. 22.

  5. Cathy: All the homes are fine!

  6. DJ: As interesting as that might be, how on earth is this relevant to St. Blaise? o{];¬) TIP: It might produce more notice if you e-mail me the news so I can start an entry!

  7. Sorry for being so dumb, but where do we find your e-mail address?
    Many times I wanted to e-mail you. but could not find it on this page. I saw a picture of St. Blaise surrounded by dogs or wolves explaining that he was a tamer of animals. Does anyone know about this?
    Dcn John (Stormy Central Florida)

  8. I use the english translation of the older form.In the new blessing did they change malo to something else since it says “from every other illness”?

  9. michigancatholic says:

    Now to avoid the lay minister wannabees without hurting their feelings too badly. Ack.

  10. michigan: They’ll get over it.

  11. Victor says:

    Father: Tante grazie!

  12. michigancatholic says:

    I wish they’d get over the illusions of grandeur from which they suffer. That would be better.

  13. Janet says:

    To no one in particular:
    At our parish, Father allowed 3 lay ‘servers’ to help him bless throats. Thankfully, I was in Father’s line without having to do anything tacky like crossing to another line. But can anyone tell me, is it actually allowed and valid to have a layperson administering this blessing? To me, when a priest blesses me, I’m blessed and I know it because he was speaking ‘in persona Christi’. Not so with a layperson. With them I’d feel like I was wasting my time. What is valid and allowable these days?

  14. Janet: The present legislation of the Church does in fact permit lay people to invoke the intercession of St. Blaise in that manner.

    In my opinion, this is not a good or prudent practice, but that is way above my pay-grade. The Church allows lay people to give some blessings in some circumstances. The blessing they give is not, IMO, the same as that which the priest gives. By reason of his sacrament of Holy Orders, a priest acts “in the person of Christ” when he invokes God’s blessing.