Today is the Feast of St. Blaise. The Mass celebrating St. Blaise is a bit out of the ordinary. You see, the legend of St. Blaise says that he was a 3rd century physician who became a Bishop in Armenia. The most famous story of St. Blaise tells of a woman whose son was dying because he had a fish bone stuck in his throat. She brought her son before St. Blaise as he was on his way to be executed for being a Christian and St. Blaise laid his hands on the boy’s throat and prayed for God’s blessings upon him. Because of this, St. Blaise is the patron saint of ailments of the throat (most take this definition broadly to include the words that we speak as well) and during Mass on this day, the priest blesses our throats.
A prayer is said in which two candles are blessed. These candles (unlit) are then in a crossed fashion over our throats (or in some regions, the wicks are dipped into holy oil and then used to apply holy oil to the throat) while the priest recites the words: May God at the intercession of St. Blaise preserve you from throat troubles and every other evil. He then makes the sign of the cross with us as we reply Amen. This day completes the “trilogy” of the celebrations of fire and light that began with St. Brigid’s Day (the Celtic Goddess of Fire and the Christian Saint associated with fire), continues with Candelmas in which candles as representatives of Jesus, the light of the world, are blessed, and concludes here with St. Blaise day and the candles being held in blessing over our throats.
An old Armenian tradition states that if a person asks for St. Blaise’s blessing while forming a knot in a piece of cord, that person shall be free of throat ailments. In Europe, there is a tradition of having bread blessed on St. Blaise Day and then giving the bread to others as gifts. The bread is formed into the shape of bread sticks known as St. Blaise sticks and it is said that those who partake of the bread will also be protected against problems with their throats. See my favourite bread recipe (Beer Bread – delicious and so easy to make!) over at my other blog, The Red Apple Tearoom: http://islandtearoom.wordpress.com/2010/02/03/beer-bread/