Feast of St. Blaise lights way to Christ

Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)
February 4, 2005 Friday

Feast of St. Blaise lights way to Christ; Catholics accept the
blessing for protection from throat illnesses



Students at St. Joseph the Worker School gathered for a time-honored
Catholic tradition Thursday.

They celebrated the feast of St. Blaise with the annual blessing of
the throat.

To those who have never seen it done, crossing two unlit candles over
the throat is a curious sight.

“It is one of those things that Catholics do that non-Catholics don’t
do,” said the Rev. Mark Ressler, in his first year at St. Joseph the
Worker Catholic Church in Dubuque.

Students said this is a prayer service they look forward to.

“With all the colds and flu going around right now, and we even have
a couple of kids out today, it’s kind of important. It’s kind of
reassuring,” said eighth-grader Laura Davis.

St. Blaise Day is celebrated by Catholics worldwide.

Many of the students learned about St. Blaise by researching Catholic
history in class.

For eighth-graders in teacher Jane Northrup’s class, that meant
choosing a saint, learning about that person and writing a report.

“It was a creative way to learn about them,” said eighth-grader
Lauren Siegert.

Little is known about St. Blaise, who was Bishop Blaise of Sebaste in
Armenia in the 4th century. He lived at a time when Christians
endured great persecution. As the story goes, St. Blaise was warned
in a message from God to escape to the hills, and he took refuge in a
cave. He eventually was taken prisoner and returned to the governor.
On the way he encountered a boy choking on a fish bone and cured him.
Hence the tradition as it is practiced today.

The candles used in the service are blessed the day before during the
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.

During Thursday’s prayer service, which was open to the public and
attended by St. Joseph’s first through eighth grades, Ressler said
the candles signified that “Christ is the light of the world.”

Those attending prayed for “protection from illness of the throat and
from colds, sore throats, flu and other sickness.”

The annual St. Blaise Day blessing of the throats was one of many
school activities taking place during Catholic Schools week, which
ends today.

GRAPHIC: Olivia Dodds, a second-grader at St. Joseph the Worker
School in Dubuque, has her throat blessed during a Mass on Thursday
celebrating the feast day of St. Blaise, the patron of throat