February Second has a few meanings in our world: First, most people recognize it as Rodent Celebration Day: Groundhog Day! For two years, I lived in Punxsutawney, PA where Groundhog Day is truly an experience to be had. I never went to Gobbler’s Knob for the celebration as it happens in the dark cold night of winter. There’s very little that would get me out of bed at that hour in the usually snowy days of early February.
The second and third meanings are a bit more spiritual and have more important meanings for our lives. The Second of February is the celebration of the Presentation of the Lord, honoring Jesus Christ’s presentation in the Temple when he was a young child.
Jesus’ presentation in the Temple reflects how he fulfills the Old Covenant. According to Old Testament law, a sacrifice had to be offered in the Temple when a child was consecrated to the Lord. Mary and Joseph honor this tradition.
The third celebration for February Second is Candlemas, or also known as little Christmas. Upon the presentation of the Lord in the temple, the image of light entering the temple is seen as Christ bringing light of God’s salvation to the world. This celebration of Candlemas is the day that candles are blessed for use in the home as well as in church.
On February Third, the church celebrates Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr. We know more about the devotion to Saint Blaise by Christians around the world than we know about the saint himself. His feast is observed as a holy day in some Eastern Churches. In 1222, the Council of Oxford prohibited servile labor in England on Blaise’s feast day. The Germans and Slavs hold him in special honor, and for decades many United States Catholics have sought the annual Saint Blaise blessing for their throats.
We know that Bishop Blaise was martyred in his episcopal city of Sebastea, Armenia, in 316. The legendary Acts of St. Blaise were written 400 years later. According to them Blaise was a good bishop, working hard to encourage the spiritual and physical health of his people. Although the Edict of Toleration (311), granting freedom of worship in the Roman Empire, was already five years old, persecution still raged in Armenia. Blaise was apparently forced to flee to the back country. There he lived as a hermit in solitude and prayer, but he made friends with the wild animals. One day a group of hunters seeking wild animals for the amphitheater stumbled upon Blaise’s cave. They were first surprised and then frightened. The bishop was kneeling in prayer surrounded by patiently waiting wolves, lions and bears.
The legend has it that as the hunters hauled Blaise off to prison, a mother came with her young son who had a fish bone lodged in his throat. At Blaise’s command the child was able to cough up the bone.
Agricolaus, governor of Cappadocia, tried to persuade Blaise to sacrifice to pagan idols. The first time Blaise refused, he was beaten. The next time he was suspended from a tree and his flesh torn with iron combs or rakes. Finally, he was beheaded.
With the celebration of Saint Blaise, we also bless throats with the candles blessed on the second.
I encourage everyone to bring different candles with them to church to be blessed at all the weekend masses next weekend. Following mass next weekend, I will also be blessing throats for anyone who wishes to receive this blessing.
As mentioned in last week’s bulletin, the Knights of Columbus will be sponsoring Bingo on Friday, March 17 for Saint Patrick’s Day. Food and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase that night. While bingo is played, the parish will also be hosting a bake sale that same night. We are looking for any volunteers to help in the kitchen with food preparations as well as donations for the bake sale. Please contact the parish office at your earliest convenience to let us know if you can help with this.
I look forward to seeing you all at our Mardi Gras party on February 18. Please RSVP as soon as possible to the parish office.
With Mardi Gras in our view, that means Lent is right around the corner. In the coming weeks, we will have a schedule of events in our parish for Lent in the bulletin. I hope we all can take opportunity this Lent to grow in our prayer and discernment of the Lord’s will.
Pax et Bonum, Fr. Andy