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.
Exaudi, Domine, populum tuum,
cvm beati Blasii martyris patrocinio supplicantem,
ut et temporalis vitae nos tribuas pace gaudere,
et aeternae reperire subsidium.
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. 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 (NB: The Rituale Romanum says that it has to be prayed in Latin):
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!
The business with throats today comes from the story about how St. Blaise, the day after Candlemas, saved the life of a boy who was choking on a fishbone by blessing him while holding blessed candles.
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 in Rome, 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.
And there is the twisty version:
And then we have a high tech approach: [The nice people at F.C. Ziegler asked me to post a link to it. HERE]
Finally, there is this contraption, which looks like it is from Star Trek:
Finally, there is also today a special blessing for fruit, bread, wine and water. I wrote about that HERE
When I was a child our throats were blessed with LIGHTED candles!
Fr. Z, do the metal candle holders have an official name? Our parish has a twisted wrought iron contraption they use every year. Kind of has a medieval torture device vibe.
I wish .. no I pray that we could be more Catholic.
Feast days like this are just not celebrated or recognized at our N.O. church.
It would be nice to be Catholic.
It seems that the bishops of Chile are more concerned about homosex and other mental illnesses.
I’m seeing pictures on Facebook of laypeople doing the blessing of the throat after Mass and one of them is near a Bishop doing it! I don’t think that is right.
The same thing happened at the church of the school where I teach. The priest blessed the extra-ordinary ministers and they went and blessed people’s throats. Is this valid?
The Star Trek version is a mere €16,50. Seems a deal.