3 Feb: St. Blaise – special blessings of candles and of throats

 

blaiseToday 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.

St. BlaiseI 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.  In the older form of the Rituale Romanum there is a marvelous blessing for the candles used to confer the blessing of throats.  Here it is:

BLESSING 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!  Of 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.

St. BlaiseI 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, San Biagio, 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.

The configuration of the candles used for the blessing can vary.  Here are a few examples.

This is probably the most common.

blaise candles 01

And there is the twisty version:

blaise candles 02

And then we have a high tech approach:  [The nice people at F.C. Ziegler asked me to post a link to it. HERE]

blaise candles 04

Finally, there is this contraption, which looks like it is from Star Trek:

blaise candles 03

 

Hmmm….

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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16 Responses to 3 Feb: St. Blaise – special blessings of candles and of throats

  1. frjimt says:

    All disappeared.. Had to laugh, as a priest with whom I had the privilege of living with.. .. Declared to us to expect long lines as he was lighting the end of his candles for the blessing!
    Blessed day, especially with the flu so bad. St Blaise, pray for us!

    [“especially with the flu so bad”… GREAT point.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  2. Fr. Hugo says:

    I actually use the German Star-Trek contraption. I had my doubts about it too, when I got it, but it’s very practical, actually. And it ads to the picturesque atmosphere of the day.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  3. APX says:

    There’s also special blessings for water, fruit, and wine today.

    I’ve decided to also make St. Blaise the unofficial patron saint of thyroid diseases and disorders, since my endocrinologist could not understand how my thyroid went back to normal (instead of becoming hypo, which was her aim) after she prescribed the highest amount of radioactive iodine allowed to non-cancer patients. In all her years she’s never had that happen. I’m not declaring it a miracle, but a month before my treatment I got the blessing of throats and specifically asked for St. Blaise’s intercession to keep me from going hypothyroid (I also got Ash Wednesday Mass offered for myself for the same intention four days prior, so…)

  4. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    As an otorhinolaryngologist, I have a particular devotion to St. Blaine and consider him a sort of professional patron. I was glad this year, his Feast finally falling on a Saturday, that I could make it to Mass for a blessing.

  5. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    St. Blaise***

    Sneaky phone autocorrect…..

  6. Fr. Kelly says:

    Fathers,
    Do any of you use lighted candles for this blessing?
    I have never heard of this. I give the blessing as widely as I can and have received it annually since I was a little boy, but have never seen lighted candles used.
    The blessing refers to those whom the wax touches…
    Placing open flames so close to the hair seems dangerous, especially for a woman with hairspray …

  7. APX says:

    Our priest’s candles were tied together with papertowel.

  8. acardnal says:

    Some of these contraptions remind me of my hedge trimmer. How I would love to see some modern day heretics’ heads between those blades!

  9. Still haven’t gotten my blessing. I did do the Blessing, however, in Latin using the formula Fr. Z. kindly provided.

    Today was the First Saturday Devotion Dominican Rite Missa Cantata here at our Western Province House of Studies here in Oakland, which is sung and served by the brothers. It was, of course, the Votive of the Immaculate Heart, but I did mention St. Blaise in the sermon and change into surplice and red stole before coming out to do the Blessing.

    For those in the Bay Area interested, we have this sung Mass every First Saturday when school is in session.

  10. Father G says:

    @ Fr. Kelley,
    Here is video of the blessing of throats with lighted candles in the Diocese of Eichstätt, Germany: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbgLa7IWQyk
    The candles are not placed around the neck, but placed in front of the person’s face.

  11. I can’t tell what it is exactly that I’m looking at inside the crystal. (Besides a relic. What is the relic?)

  12. Mikhael says:

    Our parish priest preached on the importance of the Latin in the blessing of the throats. “May God free you from all EVIL of the throat.” He explained that our corrupt modern world today forgets that every sickness is evil. Many are so shocked when hearing that every sickness, disease and cancer is evil because nobody in the modern world understands what evil is. They believe that the only evil there is, is a moral evil and they do not understand that there are moral evils and physical evils. He continued in stating that every sickness, cancer etc. is evil, not a moral evil but a physical one. Msgr. quoted St. Augustine, “Evil is a privation,” (lacking of what is not there) and continued saying that usually we are not culpable for physicals evils. He concluded in saying how important the Latin is in the blessing, NOT may God free from all disease of the throat but of EVIL of the throat (a lacking of what should be there). He said more importantly “may God free you from all evil of the throat AND (may God free you) from any other EVIL. Free from any other evil, not only our physical evil but also moral evil, our vices. While I received the St. Blaise blessing it gave me a new perspective on what is evil and how amazing this blessing is. Deo Gratias!

  13. APX says:

    Placing open flames so close to the hair seems dangerous, especially for a woman with hairspray …
    Modern hairspray, with the except of aerosol hairspray when it’s still wet, isn’t actually flammable. (if you spray aerosol hairspray in a bathroom sink, light it on fire and turn the lights off, it’s pretty cool, but it doesn’t work with pump style hairspray.) The real concern is dry straw-like winter hair. That being said, there is a technique for removing split ends by burning them off with a lit candle, but only a handful of hairstylists are trained and certified to do it.

  14. Fr. Kelly says:

    Thank you for that video Father G,
    Apparently, that must be the practice there, but I don’t know how to square it with the instructions which say the candles are held “to the neck” of the person receiving the blessing, (1964 Rituale Weller trans.)
    Also the blessing of candles on St. Blaise day refer to the wax touching the one blessed.

  15. Father G says:

    @Father Kelly,
    There used to be a photo online of a blessing of throats with lighted candles touching the neck of the person. It’s practiced in a parish in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico.
    The photo is no longer online but I found this photo of Pope Francis getting his throat blessed that matches the position of the candles: http://fotos.miarroba.es/fo/9abc/33553BF5821654D146F71754D14500.jpg
    The candles have to be long enough so that the flame is positioned above and behind the person while still touching his/her neck. I would recommend modifying candle covers, by cutting out one side so that flame doesn’t burn the cover while the opposite side collects the dripping wax.
    I would also recommend anyone with long hair wanting to be blessed this way to tie tightly their hair.
    Hope this helps.

  16. Blaise says:

    I wish I had known that San Carlo e San Biagio had relics of St Blaise when I was living near by. I was delighted to find three Churches dedicated to St Blaise in Rome including the Armenian rite Church in Via Giulia less than ten minutes walk from San Carlo ai Catinari.