One small, but very beautiful part of the Church's year is the sacramental of the blessings of throats on the feast of St. Blaise.

The blessing of St. Blaise is given on the 3rd of February, the saints feast day, by putting two candles in the form of a cross  on the neck of the person, while the priest says:
"Through the intercession of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, may God deliver you from all ailments of the throat and from every other evil, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

According to a very old tradition found in both the east and west, St. Blaise was bishop of the city of Sebaste in Armenia. He was martyred sometime between the year 311 and 324 under the eastern Emperor Licinius. It is reported that he miraculously saved a young boy who was choking on a fish bone, and some stories about him say that he performed this miracle while he was on his way to martyrdom. This holy martyr has been invoked as the patron saint of those who suffer from throat illnesses for well over a thousand years. What does this ceremony and prayer say to us today? It says some very important things about God, people and things.

The strangest part of the blessing is the two candles held against the throat. Surely, many will object, we don't need things like that  for God to bless us? Well, yes and no. Indeed, God does not need such things as candles, and certainly they do not produce his blessing - that would be magic, not faith. But while God does not need things in order to hear our prayer, we do need things to remind us of what God is doing. Things like food, houses, cars and furniture, are part of our lives - we cannot live without them.

We are physical beings of flesh and blood and we need other material things around us in order to live. However, we can get so caught up with things that we forget about the God who made every thing. Objects help us to understand what is going on around us. When events go wrong in our lives we describe it in terms of things. "I have hit a dead end." When we want to understand something we say: "I want to get a handle on it." Or something to that effect. 

Because we can see and touch objects they help us understand realities which we cannot see or touch. Candles can actually remind us in a touchable way that God is caring for us. We want him to help us with our sore throats, we can feel the soreness, likewise we can feel the candles, it is a way of saying without words, but in a way we can touch, see and feel that we need God's help and healing. Everything is made by God, end everything can point us to him. Using candles - simple things, we take something God has made and use it in a special way to remind us of him. 

Going for this blessing reminds us that we are not 'loners' when we approach God. We approach him with the prayers and the support of the Church. This is not just of the visible Church around us as we receive the blessing, but it also includes the saints. We get help not just from the prayers of the other Christians here on earth, but we are helped on our Christian  journey with the prayers and intercession of the saints. St. Blaise who showed his love for Christ in his martyrdom is still expressing love for his brothers and sisters who are suffering from sore throats.

It is easy to think of God as distant, far away, and not 'very concerned' with us. But God so loved us that he sent his Son as our Savior. God is intimately close to each of us in Jesus Christ. The kingdom of heaven is close at hand, so we can call on God in our needs. Our greatest need is salvation. The word 'salvation' comes from salus, the word for health. We all need health because we are sick  as a result of our sins, but we can and must call  on God for our physical health also. God is caring and in his care reaches down to the smallest things. We might think that a sore throat is almost too puny for God to be bothered with it, but that would be to think of God as like us, limited in our love, hard and uncaring. God's love is infinite, and his care knows no bounds. In asking God for health in just one little thing, we are showing our faith in him as the God who is close and caring. We are asking for a little taste of that wholeness and health we call salvation.

Source: Father Thomas O'Loughlin.