In the Christian calendar, there are many saints listed. A saint is a person who lived on earth and is now in heaven, very often after heroic lives of living out the faith. They are superheroes. Some are officially declared, like St. Francis or St. Paul, and some are unofficial, as someone's grandmother or someone's child who died.
There is a website listing many official saints with a brief biography. It also lists patron saints for many occupations and endeavors -- "Saints and Angels Catholic online."
One, St. Blaise, whose feast day is Feb. 3, lived in the early third century. He was a bishop and martyr. He is known for curing a child choking on bones. It may have been the Heimlich maneuver or something, but the story is around.
There is a tradition of the blessing of throats, which is not the flu vaccine, but important to many people. In explaining this to the children, I have a fun time not knowing what they will come up with.
Then the question of what we do with the throat. For children, a good way is to ask, "What would happen if you did not have a throat?" The answers vary widely including:
"Your head would fall off with nothing to attach it to."
"The food would fall out and land on the outside and you would starve."
"You would be several inches shorter."
"You could not drink because that would leak."
"You could not breathe and would turn purple."
"You could not talk."
"You could not sing."
The throat indeed has many functions.
The question about what is a blessing. Many of the children are taking dance lessons and have special shoes for whatever the type of dance. You cannot use ballet slippers for tap. You do not wear ski boots like bedroom slippers. You may have dress up shoes and play shoes. Each shoe is dedicated to a specific purpose.
To bless something is to set it aside with a designated purpose of doing God's will. If throats are being blessed, what we are asking? The throats would be used for good purposes. Eating. Only healthy foods would be allowed, too much junk could cause the throat to shut down. Breathing. Only healthy air would be used. Smoking would cause a person to gag. God does not want us sick, and any other unhealthy smoke would not be allowed. Speaking. Imagine if our throat were only used to build up people and never to tear them down. Bullying and nasty gossip would cease to exist; children would grow up with self esteem. All that garbage that exists in some people may not be inflicted on others.
There is always a danger in receiving a blessing because it may work.
There is also the aspect that God wants us to be at ease with our health, as opposed to having a DIS-EASE.
We also pray for all the healers who are instruments of peace. Imagine that you would gag if you used your throat for any purpose other that praising God and praising the people in your midst and praising yourself... Be careful.
Rev. William H. Kelley, CSC, is a priest at St. John the Baptist Church in North Bennington and Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Church in Bennington.