I wrote about St. Blaise Day last year and why I go to this Catholic service once a year. I had it in my intentions all this week to again participate in St. Blaise Day on February 3. I was even thinking how great it was that it wasn’t icy and snowy like it was last February and I didn’t have to worry about that issue this week.
But Friday, St. Blaise Day, rolled around yesterday and I completely forgot. I expected to go to a noon mass again and at 12:45 I looked at the clock and remembered! Shoot. With the help of my Catholic friend Denise and the Internet and a call or two, I discovered a couple of after work services that would have the blessing. Denise says I am lucky that it was First Friday or churches might not have been having these services.
I made it to the south side of town to the San Jose Catholic Church by their 5:45 service in the Sacred Heart Chapel. I wanted to see what their big cathedral looked like inside, but I guess I’ll have to go another time for that. The chapel was very nice, though. Plastic movable chairs instead of pews and no kneeling benches. I think Catholics must get to live longer because they keep their bodies limber by kneeling so often. Over and over and over during a service. I don’t/can’t do that. I was surprised that they DID get all the way on their knees when there are no kneeling benches.
The priest this year was a very small berry brown man and I assumed he was Mexican since this church is in the heart of a Mexican community, but when he spoke I realized he is probably Indian. He had a beautiful soft British accent.
It was a long long service with lots of responsive readings and ceremony and ritual. One thing (well, several things) I’ll give to the Catholics: first, it isn’t a social hour when they come to church, before or after the service. When I go into a church I like to get my mind right and think and relax and prepare for worship. Catholics know how to to that, especially with the holy water and the kneeling as they come in, etc., but mainly with sitting quietly or praying before the service. Baptists (if you haven’t been in a Baptist church) do a whole lot of greeting and talking and visiting as they sit in the pews and come up the aisles before the service gets started. And I appreciate the Catholics for not making me declare that I am a visitor and filling out a card and fearing that they are going to come to my house to visit me. I have several horror stories related to such things I won’t go into today, but it is a huge relief to not even have to worry about that moment of the service where they say “Can we have all the visitors stand so we can welcome you?” Augh. Catholics do have that part of the service where you greet one another and say “Peace be with you,” but no one says “And who are YOU?” or “You are visiting?” or even expects you to introduce yourself. I like that, too. Yes, I like anonymity. But the Baptists do have much better music and much less audience participation so don’t think I’m slamming Baptists. We have our good parts, too.
They did the blessing early in the service and the priest did every one of them (no assistant priest) and said it loudly and clearly so I could really hear the words, asking the bishop and martyr St. Blaise to intercede and prevent diseases of the throat and all other diseases in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There were at least 75 people there so it took a while.
One thing I liked, too, in this mostly Mexican-heritage congregation was several women with lace scarves on their head. One woman that assisted in the service and communion had a beautiful black and red one that really was beautiful with her black hair and eyes.
Before the service I went into the little store there at the church. Lots of churches (even Baptists) have little stores in their churches these days and I’m not so sure I “believe” in that, but I did appreciate this one last night. I have wanted a St. Blaise medal for years. I have a St. Christopher medal that a listener once gave me and I appreciate it because of her, but I wanted St. Blaise because of this yearly ritual. I had looked online and have seen gold and silver ones for $25 and up, so I haven’t ordered one. Last night I found this store with just about every medal of every saint you could want and got a St. Blaise for all of 50 cents. Score!
Next year St. Blaise should fall on a Sunday again and it might be a long service. I will call ahead to make sure that there will be a blessing since my last Sunday experience didn’t have one. It will probably be Superbowl Sunday, too, but I expect and plan to be there again, unless I forget.