Blessing of the Throats

“Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from ailments of the throat and from every other evil. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Blessing of St. Blaise).

Many Catholics today will attend Mass and participate in the traditional Blessing of the Throats, in honor of St. Blaise, a third century physician and bishop.

According to legend, Blaise was born in Armenia into a noble family and raised as a Christian. When a new round of persecution began, Blaise fled to the hills to escape. There, he befriended the wild animals — wolves, lions, and bears. One day a group of hunters recognized him and captured him, intending to turn him in to the governor for trial. On the way, a woman brought him her son, who had a fish bone caught in his throat. Blaise prayed over the boy, and the bone dislodged, saving him from certain death.

When the governor attempted to get Blaise to sacrifice to pagan idols, Blaise refused. First he was beaten, then tortured, and finally beheaded.

The Feast of St. Blaise is celebrated around the world. Some Eastern Churches consider his feast a holy day; Germans and Slavs, in particular, hold him in special honor.

The Blessing of the Throats is a sacramental of the Church. Like Rosaries or genuflecting, sacramentals are Church-instituted objects or actions that work through the power and prayers of the Church to drive away the evil spirit.

Traditionally, the Blessing of the Throats will be performed at the conclusion of Mass.

The priest (often with several lay assistants) takes two blessed unlit candles, usually tied in a V-shape with a red ribbon, and lays them at the throat of each congregant, reciting the words of the blessing at the top of this post.

A simple and quick ceremony, but one that’s effective, particularly at this time of year when respiratory illnesses are rampant!

Blaise is the patron saint of wild animals and of those with throat maladies. When we seek his intercession, we should remember to ask for God’s protection not just against physical throat disorders (sore throats and colds, for example), but also for spiritual help (avoiding profanity, gossip, etc.) As St. James told us, “If a man who does not control his tongue imagines that he is devout, he is self-deceived; his worship is pointless.” (1:26)

The Blessing of the Throats is one ritual I try not to miss. How about you?