3 Feb: St. Blaise and the blessing of candles and of throats

Every 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: Sancti 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 belief in Christ.

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 a priest at. San Carlo in Rome, blessing with the relic.

At the Sabine Farm, there is a relic of St. Blaise!  It is in a very old reliquary.

Here we have St. Blaise along with St. Nicholas, St. Joachim, St. Ann and, a special privilege, St. Paul, Apostle, during the Pauline Year.

St. Blaise is at the bottom.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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10 Responses to 3 Feb: St. Blaise and the blessing of candles and of throats

  1. +++++ says:

    ++++

  2. Mila says:

    Our parochial vicar said the blessing after Mass, but in a general way, not individually,and of course, without the candles.

  3. David Andrew says:

    Our boys’ and girls’ choir rehearses immediately after school, and lately the Pastor has been showing up to the break room where the children gather for a simple snack between dismissal and the beginning of rehearsal. (We wait until 4 PM and about 7 home-schooled children join us).

    I asked him if he had blessed throats at Mass this morning, and he said “yes” and was happy to show us a special candle set used for the blessing which he had brought back from the Ukraine. It was two large candles that were clearly twisted together at their base, but not fused. They weren’t molded together, they were literally two separate candles braided at their bases. He said he’d shown them to several American candle makers who said they couldn’t duplicate what the nuns who made them had done. (A miracle in itself!)

    I asked him if he would bless the throats of the choristers, parents and myself, and he gladly obliged.

  4. Matt says:

    What a lovely prayer Father Z. Thank you for sharing! The traditional prayer is so beautiful and comforting.

  5. RC says:

    Man! I am so impressed with how St Blaise was martyred: he was “carded”: that is, he was tortured with metal combs with teeth several inches long, made for combing wool.

    I hadn’t heard one of those before.

  6. Joanne says:

    “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!”

    As I noted in the other thread, I had my throat blessed after a Latin Low Mass, and the priest did in fact use the Latin text!

  7. Michelle Marie Romani says:

    Dear Fr. Z.:

    We have been having a contentions discussion on the Catholic Answers Forum regarding the laity reciting the St. Blaise prayer (for lack of a better phrase)over the faithful while touching their necks with the candle.

    The 1989 edition of the Book of Blessings makes allowances for this. However, my main bone of contention comes from the parameters set by Ecclesiae de Mysterio and a 2008 ruling from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments which notes that EMHCs should not be imparting blessings (touching people on the head) in lieu of distributing Holy Communion. A lot of the blessings of the throats are doine within the context of the Mass (either after the Homily or before the Prayer after Communion). Some posters reported that EMHCs were asked to assist during this time.

    Some who have held this position have been ridiculed. I am blessed because my Parochial Vicar, who celebrated Mass at the local hospital chapel, blessed our throats (about 30 of them).

    What is your take on this? Thank you, in advance, and God bless you.

  8. Father says:

    Some parishioners who visited a church (I think in Croatia, although I’m not sure) that is a main repository of the relics of St. Blaise brought back from this church the most wonderful candles for the blessing of St. Blaise: instead of the usual two candles crossed and tied with a ribbon, they’re two candles shaped at each end like a corkscrew, intertwined together, such that the overall effect is like a wishbone. Very very handy for when having to give lots of blessings in a row! They come in different sizes too, with the ‘wishbone’ opening suitable for different sized necks. After the first year using the ‘large’ size, we priests found out that American necks are bigger than European necks! So, when the parishioners went back, we had them get the extra-large size! Worked out much better the second year–you don’t want to pinch parishioners in the throat. ;-) Anyone know if these can be purchased online or which church exactly they’re at?

  9. Future Priest says:

    Can the blessing of throats with candles be given throughout
    the year or is it limited to Feb. 3rd only?

  10. yeoldeacolyte says:

    I always enjoy seeing the rites surrounding these old “popish trinkets” as the Elizabethans called them. Which the priests love to haul out for the superstitious veneration of those who pay,pray and obey. As beautiful as the prayers for St. Blaise may be, let us hope the new and enlightened Catholicism wedded to medieval rituals, will in time discard these fabulous fakes and center on a more scripture based faith. Where the Divine Office is second only to the Mass and takes its rightful place in the parish liturgical schedule. Instead of worshipping things, pious objects, etc.