This past Saturday, February 3, was the Feast of St. Blaise. St. Blaise was a physician, the bishop of Sebaste (in present day Turkey), and a martyr who was born sometime in the third century and died about the year 316. Legends about St. Blaise tell that he once saved a boy from choking on a fish bone. For this reason, his intercession is invoked for illness of the throat, and it is customary for throats to be blessed on his feast, using candles. Especially at this time of year, as many people are dealing with the flu, pneumonia, COVID, RSV, winter colds, or just that persistent cough, it is most appropriate that we seek the blessing of St. Blaise asking for healing and protection. I will offer the St. Blaise blessing as the final blessing at each Mass this weekend, and I will offer the blessing individually to people in the sanctuary after Masses, as well. St. Blaise, pray for us!
As we seek physical healing, I would also like to remind you of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. The faithful should ask for this Sacrament when they are seriously ill or anticipating surgery; it is not only a sacrament for the dying. Healing those who were sick was one of the most important signs of God’s reign that Jesus made manifest in his ministry, and he continues to offer this gift of healing through the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Again, if you are seriously ill or preparing for surgery, please ask me for this Sacrament, which I am happy to celebrate with you and your family in your home or in our Church, perhaps after a Sunday Mass. We believe that Christ, the Divine Physician, can and will heal us, but we also have a part to play, and the good advice that we heard so often during the pandemic still applies: Remember to wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home when you are sick, be mindful of crowds, and be up to date on all your vaccinations and boosters.
Now that we are in the month of February, Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent are just around the corner! On Ash Wednesday, February 14, there will be many opportunities to celebrate Eucharist and receive ashes, but the days of Lent are mostly kept at home. Consider now how you can grow in faith during Lent through your prayer, fasting, and works of mercy. This year presents a dilemma for some as Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fall on the same day. Even though February 14 is the traditional day for romantic dinners and chocolates, Ash Wednesday is always a day of fast and abstinence for Catholics, including this year. So maybe this year you celebrate with your sweetheart a day early and enjoy some Mardi Gras fun before the season of Lent begins. After all, this is Carnival season, so it’s the perfect time to have your steak dinner and chocolates before the start of Lent. And we all need to combat the winter doldrums with some fun and frivolity these days, so wear bright clothes, have an extra cookie or two, attend the local parades and festivities, and celebrate the season! Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Next Sunday, February 11, is World Marriage Sunday, when we celebrate and honor those who are living the Sacrament of Matrimony. At the 8:00am Mass next Sunday, I’ll offer a blessing for married couples, and all married couples are invited to a breakfast after Mass in the Church Hall.
Our Holy Father Pope Francis’ intention for this month of February is for the terminally ill. We pray that those with a terminal illness, and their families, receive the necessary physical and spiritual care and accompaniment. We pray to the Lord!