Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Saint Blaise

Twenty-five years ago, a small book of humor, Growing Up Catholic, came out. On a corner of a page, there was listed two, and only two, Catholic fun days; one was Saint Patrick’s, there were irish on the committee, and the other was ― Saint Blaise. Now, in protestant America, it is doubtful that Blaise is even known, considering, the often, odd naming practices as a given, christian name.

On his name day ― 3 February, or Sunday of Candlemas, throats are blessed by crossed tapers. During mass, or after, people line up to hear the words, in the old latin, “Per intercessionem S. Blasii liberet to Deus a malo gutteris et a qouvis alio malo”, or in english, “May God at the intercession of St. Blaise preserve you from throat troubles and every other evil”, as beeswax candles are pressed about the throat, and the priest, or deacon, pronounces the sign of the cross.* This little ceremony, as with the imposition of ashes, is both optional for the faithful, and open to all, irregardless of their faith, meaning ― you do not have to be a Catholic. Some people remember this, fondly, from their elementary school days. Others still enjoy it as adults, and are even disappointed if the local priest does not celebrate the blessing.

Why this? Blaise is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. He was a bishop and physician in Sebaste of Armenia, at that interesting time, when christianity was becoming legal. He was tortured and beheaded, under Licinius, in 316, after the Edict of Toleration. While imprisoned, he saved a boy from choking on a fish bone, hence his help for the throat.

Now, there is a bit of an english wordplay with candles and the name Blaise (Blaze). We can also, other than being safe from choking and malady, be free from uttering bad, or hurtful words. Some of us can still be in the need of his intercession.
*sometimes said so rapidly as to resemble a mumbling blur of syllables
noto bene: St. Blaise is patron of Dubrovnik on the Dalmatian coast, banner supra. Recently, in Sivas (modern Sebaste), archaeologists have found a grave, that, they believe may have been for Blaise. Some of his relics reside in Dubrovnik.

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