Candlemas ~ February 2

Candlemas ~ February 2

Keeping tradition Alive



Thomas Merton


It is for this we come,

And, kneeling, each receive one flame:

Ad revelationem gentium.  


My perspective for many of these Christian/Catholic feasts is from the perspective of a participant. I have a lot of childhood memories of Candlemas and more recent ones also.


I know it was very important to my mother to have some candles blessed on that day and as time goes by I love the idea of having candles burned thorough the year that carry a blessing. 


It’s always fascinating to see the correlation between older feasts, such as Brigid (who later became a saint) and how the themes overlap. Brigid’s element had been fire. And as a saint her perpetual flame was kept alight for centuries in Kildare. (more on Brigid here). Candlemas is the fortieth day after the birth of Christ and marks his presentation.


I once took part in a Candlemas procession through a monastery. They were still using the Christmas hymns since for them, the Christmas Season ran the full forty days through Candlemas. The monestary had been built with gigantic old wooden beams and as we sat on hand-carved wooden benches by candlelight after processing through the building, listening to the monks reciting Latin plainchant, I found it to be a truly moving experience. It has stayed with me.

Feast of St. Blaize ~ Feburary 3

Feast of St. Blaize ~ February 3

Keeping tradition Alive

Blessing of the Throats - Feast of St. Blaize


The thing that comes to mind regarding St. Blaize’s feast was that you didn’t you didn’t want to miss it! When I was growing up, I seem to remember soar throats being  a bit of an issue, and colds in general. Ireland was damp… It still is but the houses aren’t! And strep throat was the very worst thing… So, there was something very real and visceral about the blessing of the throats. It wasn’t a symbolic idea to me. 


I remain ever fascinated by ritual, its ambiance, its emotionality and its social, religious and folkloric functions.  There’s something very lovely in the idea of a Saint wholly dedicated to helping you avoid soar throats, especially if that’s a very real part of your life.


Of course, the saints, particularly the big boys like Aquinas tend to be regarded in much deeper terms but I love the ones with colloquial characteristics who are held in high affection or regard in a way that’s earthy and visceral, like Blaize and Brigid, the lady who could you help you feed a big family. They provide, at the very least, a gracious way of looking at life, and the world, or the otherworld, adding a sort of dignity to all the indignities of life; the sore throat, the cold, the damp. They gave life a bit of fire, they added some interest, mystery and interest to what were essentially hardships. 


It’s easy to condesdent to these things as superstitions but what is faith if not a series of decisions to trust. What is any society or life without this series of assumptions that goodwill is prevailing. ‘nuff said.