Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Feast Of Saint Blaise

One of the happy memories from my trip to Michigan in December was spending time with my siblings and cousins. Every get-together, whether face-to-face or face-to-FaceTime, leaves my cheeks and abs pleasantly sore from laughter.

Hosting an impromptu cocktail party in my crowded Holiday Inn suite, we got on the subject of my maternal grandmother, Sophie. We all have lots of memories because my grandparents had a beautiful cottage on Lake Michigan and our parents liked to ship us off to spend time there.

Grandma was especially devout and many of our days included a trip to church to attend Catholic mass. While my parents were more the Christmas-and-Easter type of Catholics, Sophie was the every-single-Sunday-and-then-some type of Catholic. (This was a continual source of tension between Grandma and Mom, and I think Grandma relished the opportunity to spiritually rescue her heathen grandchildren.)

While reminiscing about our trips to church with Grandma, I asked if anyone remembered Sophie taking us to get our throats blessed. My sibs and my cousins looked at me like I was nuts. As I continued trying to explain my recollections of having a priest press candles against my neck, they all laughed and I began to doubt my own memories. Could I have dreamed up something like this?

I turned to Wikipedia to help defend me from the ridicule. Sure enough, it is a thing:

Blessing of the Throats (Wikipedia)

For this ritual we can thank an Armenian dude named Blaise who was martyred in the 4th century, giving him the golden ticket to sainthood. Blaise was a physician of not only people, but animals too. According to the stories, the forest animals followed him around like Snow White.

How did Saint Doolittle's feast day become associated with the blessing of one specific body part? It seems Saint Blaise once cured a boy who was choking on a fish bone. And what's with the candles? The stories say the imprisoned Saint Blaise was gifted with two candles by a woman grateful to Blaise for saving her pig from a wolf. (He could talk to the animals, remember? "Hey Wolf! Back away from the pig.")

This explains why, on one February 3rd a millennia and a half later, a priest whacked my neck with two long candles.

I guess it is pretty funny.


  1. I just spit my ice tea out laughing. Returning from a visit with Grandmom at 9 my mother didn't believe the above story either. The worst part of the visit was she went to church on Saturdays dragging us along.

  2. There are other throat and priest jokes I'm thinking of, but they all seem too easy.