Bishop Alfred Schlert blesses the throat of Sister of Christian Charity Mary Margaret Miller during a Mass Feb. 3 at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown. At left is Sister Sophia Marie Peralta. (Photo by John Simitz)
Every year around this time we are invited to the altar to have our throats blessed. The priest or deacon says:
“Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
St. Blaise was a bishop in Sebastea, Armenia, who was martyred in the year 316. While not much is known about him for certain, he is said to have blessed a young boy who was choking to death on a fishbone lodged in his throat, curing him.
Eventually, the custom of the blessing of the throats arose. The crossed candles used to impart the blessing may be a reminder of the kindness of a woman who brought candles to him so that he might have light while suffering persecution for his faith in a prison cell.
The Memorial of St. Blaise is Feb. 3. The throat blessings are offered at weekend Masses around that date.
The annual blessing of the throats is a traditional sign of the Christian struggle against illness. With faith, we follow the lead of the Church in asking for St. Blaise’s protection.