I began going to daily Mass in the fall semester of 2001. In college I had always gone to Sunday Mass, but after September 11th I felt that if the world was going to change for the better, it would require that people present themselves to God and offer Him more opportunity to work His grace in them. And so, two years later and seven years ago today, I was at daily Mass on the feast day of St. Blaise for the first time in my life.
At the end of Mass, Father Mark offered an opportunity for a special blessing of throats by means of two crossed candles and the intercession of St. Blaise. A line formed of the faithful, but I stayed in my pew. I felt a tug of conscience to go up there too, but I was really embarrassed by the oddness of it. “Who gets ailments of the throat anyways,” I justified to myself, and headed out the door.
With noon Mass behind me, I walked to the dining hall for lunch. I remember that I was passing an empty salad bar on my left when I got stopped in my tracks. It was like my throat suddenly got completely dry. I recognized I wasn’t choking, so I wasn’t frightened, but it took me a good minute or two get right again.
Now my best natural explanation for what happened to me is that I inhaled dust kicked up by some unseen kitchen sweeper which got blown in by a fan through the open door on my right. But it didn’t take me long to remember St. Blaise and to recognize in this providential incident God’s gentle correction. The message: “Don’t refuse a holy blessing.”
We Catholics should not feel ashamed of our traditional blessings and sacramentals. Things like holy water, miraculous medals, and house blessings make a difference; for with these things we make an act of presenting ourselves to God and offer Him more opportunity to work His grace in us.