Coming up next weekend, we have two feast days that I love for the sheer weird-old-Catholic-ness of them: Candlemas and St. Blaise.
Candlemas, which occurs 40 days after Christmas on February 2nd, celebrates the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. This was the day that, in keeping with Jewish law, Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple for the first time. When Holy Simeon saw the baby, he had a lot to say, but we’ll focus on the end part: “For my eyes have seen your salvation which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a LIGHT for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”
From these words comes the traditional Catholic practice for the day, which is the blessing of candles. Families would bring a supply of candles for the year to Mass, and the priest would bless all of them. Some churches do this still. And even if they don’t, there’s no reason why you can’t bring your candles and ask Father to bless them for you after Mass.
Candles with at least 51% beeswax are required for liturgical use in churches. This rule doesn’t officially apply for home use, but beeswax candles do smell good, and smoke less, and it’s nice to use the real thing if possible. They’re available here in bulk from Church Supply Warehouse (and there’s even a discount with the code CANDLEMAS5 ). Amazon carries beeswax shabbat candles that would work. But even drugstore candles are fine for home use.
If you’re not able to get your candles to Mass with you, the head of the household can bless them at home with holy water. The prayers for blessing candles can be found online here (#25). They are also available as a printable pdf booklet here, along with prayers for St. Blaise. Both are also part of the Catholic All February booklet of prayers, Bible readings, devotions, crafts, and songs for the whole month. New and improved, now featuring the NABRE translation of the Bible. That’s available here as a printable pdf. And here as a paperback from Amazon. Your booklet purchases fund the production of the Catholic All Year Liturgical Living Video Series, so thanks!
Speaking of . . . there’s a new installment! See our family traditions for the day in action, including using candlelight all day instead of electric lights, the blessing of candles at home, and Bobby, our official family pancake maker, making some crepes. Thanks to Elissa Mirzaei, for creating the video!
Here’s Bobby’s 3 Ingredient Crepe Recipe (which was his great grandfather’s!)
- Crack 7 eggs into a blender
- Fill blender with whole milk to 5 cup line
- Add 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour to the blender, adding 1/2 cup of it at a time, blending in between additions
- Blend until thoroughly mixed and bubbly
- Ladle about 1/2 cup of batter onto a hot, buttered or sprayed, griddle
- Wait for crepe to look bubbled, then loosen all the way around with a metal spatula, and flip
- Cook on second side until lightly browned, then remove onto plate
- To serve, fill with whipped cream, nutella, jam, and/or fresh fruit
- For savory crepes, use whole wheat flour, and serve filled with meat and cheese
- Makes about twelve 12-inch crepes
There is a LOT more to Candlemas, including some very cool stuff on the Purification of Mary, and the churching of women after childbirth, and the associated gander month, and the final infancy epiphany, and how Groundhog Day is actually based on a Catholic Candlemas tradition, which is all in my book, but I won’t put it all here because people don’t like long blog posts anymore. 🤔🤷♀️😁
The day after Candlemas is the Feast of St. Blaise.
Because he miraculously cured a boy who was choking on a fish bone, the intercession of St. Blaise is now invoked against choking, as well as any other ailments of the throat.
The Catholic traditional practice for the day is the blessing of the throats. I find it interesting that this custom has persisted, and is practiced at every parish our family has attended, when so many other Catholic customs have fallen by the wayside over the years. Not that I’m complaining about the blessing of the throats, it’s great! But is choking really such a concern of parishioners? I guess so.
After Mass, everyone lines up again and the priest–ideally–but the Book of Blessings does allow for the use of lay ministers, using two of the newly blessed candles from Candlemas, tied together in the middle to form a cross, blesses the faithful one by one, saying: “Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
And that night for dinner, just to show how efficacious I think the blessing is, I like to serve a whole fish! It’s another one of those liturgical living + life skills things. In the United States it seems like eating fish with the bones still in it is becoming very rare. But it’s a skill that needs to be learned and practiced, if one ever wants to be able to eat fish that hasn’t already been filleted or sticked. The feast of St. Blaise is a good way to make sure we do it at least once a year.
This is our favorite whole fish recipe: Fried Whole Tilapia with Basil and Chilies
So, there’s next weekend for you, crazy Catholics! Enjoy! If you’ve used and enjoyed the Catholic All January booklet, or the Catholic All Year Compendium, and have a moment to leave a review on Amazon, I’d appreciate it.
And, what do you guys think of the Liturgical Living Videos? Are they helpful in a different way than books and blog posts? Or should I be spending more energy on writing? Only so many hours in the day!