The memorial of St. Blaise is this weekend. Traditionally, the Catholic Church offers the blessing of throats on the memorial of St. Blaise. St. Blaise was a martyr in the early fourth century. St. Blaise lived as a hermit surrounded by wild animals as his companions – a St. Francis of Assisi a millennium early. The association with St. Blaise and throats was established when he saved a young child from choking.
The blessing of throats is a welcome addition to our winter spiritual devotions and practices, given the current onslaught of colds, flus, and other viruses. Throats will be blessed after all the masses this weekend using the following words.
“Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness.”
Speaking of deliverance, Thursday, 8 February is The World Day of Prayer against Human Trafficking. This annual observance coincides with the memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita.
St. Josephine was born in Sudan in the nineteenth century. She was kidnapped at the age on nine and sold into the brutality of slavery. At the age of fourteen she was sold to an Italian family, and she was taken to Italy as a maid and nanny. While attending boarding school with the child she was exposed to Catholicism, and the teachings of God who “wills that all people be free.”
Eventually, St. Josephine discovered that slavery was illegal in Italy – she had been freed all along. She was baptized at the age of twenty-one and she entered the Canossian Sisters who operated the boarding school. At the age of twenty-seven, St. Josephine made her vows with the community.
With great reverence and holiness St. Josephine performed simple tasks for “the Master” – her preferred title for God. It was her holiness and devoted prayer life that was credited for sparring her Italian community severe damage during the Second World War. St. Josephine died on 8 February 1947 while continuing to do the will of God. St. Josephine is invoked against slavery, abuse, and human trafficking. A prayer to St. Josephine from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops follows.
St. Josephine Bakhita, you were sold into slavery as a child and endured untold hardship and suffering. Once liberated from your physical enslavement, you found true redemption in your encounter with Christ and his Church. O St. Bakhita, assist all those who are trapped in a state of slavery; intercede with God on their behalf so that they will be released from their chains of captivity. Those whom man enslaved, let God set free. Provide comfort to survivors of slavery and let them look to you as an example of hope and faith. Help all survivors find healing from their wounds. We ask for your prayers and intercessions for those enslaved among us. Amen.
Today, 4 February is the International Day of Human Fraternity. This day was established on 4 February 2019 through the signing, by Pope Francis and the Grand Iman of Al-Azhar, of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace. At the signing of the document Pope Francis stated: “All people, regardless of religion, or creed, are called to promote a culture of peace that welcomes all, while encouraging development and solidarity.” Given the current war raging in the Mid East the following conclusion of Pope Francis is most prescient: “We must not be indifferent to each other’s sufferings. The common heritage of Christians, Muslims, and Jews in God’s promise to Abraham joins us and helps us live a fraternity as vast and bright as the stars of heaven.”