Catholics do peculiar things sometimes.
At least that's probably how it looks to those who go to another church, practice a different religion or aren't in to God or spirituality at all.
One of those peculiarities is the annual blessing of throats on Feb. 3 in honor of St. Blase, patron saint of throat ailments.
I remember as a child at St. Stephen in Streator, Msgr. Peter Bolerasky would bless everyone's throat with two candles every year after the Sunday Mass that fell closest to St. Blase's memorial. There was a certain comfort in having the candles placed on my neck while Msgr. Bolerasky prayed for the health and safety of my throat. It has been a long time since I had my throat blessed.
This year, those who desired it were given the opportunity to have their throats blessed at St. Michael the Archangel in Streator. In my rush to get home, I skipped it this time, but not without thinking about its significance.
The first thing you must know is that as Catholics, we see the body and all its parts as holy. If Christ could take on a human body and all that came along with it, we must think of our bodies as holy too, as the temple of the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says.
As I reflected this year, I thought with special fondness about my throat and what it signifies to me now and throughout my life. For me, the health of my throat has a lot to do with the strength of my voice.
When I was growing up in a household of six children, as you might expect, there was a fight every day for our voices to be heard. Some members of the family just naturally had a stronger, more assertive voice, while others, like me, while naturally introverted, had to use whatever voice we could muster to establish a presence in the home (especially with being born smack dab in the middle of four brothers).
Through the years, my voice has developed well, and I can't help but attribute at least part of that to the grace of God.
Not only has my writing voice grown more solid through the practice I get with regular work through the newspaper and occasional practice at home, but my speaking voice has played a significant part of my spiritual growth as well.
In elementary school, one of my favorite parts of classroom time, especially in the younger grades, was when each of the students took turns reading from a textbook. I took great pride when my turn came and spoke with care all the words I was assigned.
Then in Mrs. Judy Arenz's fourth-grade class, we were going to present a rendition of Christ's Passion to the rest of the school. I was given the prime role of narrator, which required a lot of speaking. I was rather proud and practiced a lot at home.
Then, just before we were to present the act, I got laryngitis.
I was devastated.
Today, I offer that voice back to my Maker through being a lector at Mass and through the occasional religious talk and meditation I give through the We Are the Church program at St. Michael's.
It seems all those throat blessings over the years with the intercession of St. Blase have produced abundant gifts in my life, and I hope will continue as life unfolds.
At least that's the way I see it.
Be well and be blessed.
- SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines spirituality in The Times' readership area. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at email@example.com to share how you engage your spirit in your life and community.