Monday, February 07, 2011

The Blessing of the Throat

So, I drag myself to church Sunday morning. I haven't been to church since God only knows--well, it's been awhile. Some Sundays I was working. Some I was sleeping after working all night the night before on third shift--yes, the daycare is open 24 hours. And sometimes, I was just plain old sick. A lot of it was sickness of the soon-to-be-divorced-and-dear-God-I'm-depressed kind. But I was determined go. I made sure to get some sleep. Let me tell you, we don't know sleeping at night in this house, but I did, and slept the night through (except for Lumumba waking me up at 4 to ask a question. At 4 am!) Of course, usually I'm wide awake at that hour. But I digress.

I wore the purple dress for the first time. It's a size smaller than most of the dresses in my wardrobe, and it's got this cool "tribal" kind of pattern that makes me think of Africa. I thought I'd feel a little divalicious in it, and I've needed to feel that recently. I put on make up. Not much. Just enough to sprinkle my steps with pep, and I headed out and, will wonders cease? I actually made it on time and got a seat instead of having to stand.

I didn't know until recently that pending divorce is capable of wiping away trillions of brain cells. I knew it was February, but I couldn't tell you the exact date. I knew it wasn't Lent yet, and I'd passed Epiphany and was in ordinary time. Everything else was fuzzy. Turns out, whether it was today proper or not, we were celebrating the memorial of St. Blaise, and anyone who wanted to could come forward to receive the blessing of the throat.

I have to admit, in my convert zeal I have tended to stick to the usual suspects among the saints--St. Mary of Egypt being the exception, and she is far more well known in the Eastern Church than the Western one, of which I am happily at home in. I am most fond of Jesus' Mom, the Blessed Mary Ever Virgin, and that first conversion year I sniffed, snotted and cried my way through many a rosary with the soothing sound of Fr. Benedict Groeschel crooning the prayers through the headphones on my iPod. But Our Lady is easy. Most Catholics, in some way, love her!

I fell hard for St. Francis of Assisi, and doubt if I'd be Catholic today without his unrelenting wooing. May I say, centuries later, God's troubadour is still a charmer. Dorothy Day, who at this stage is still a Servant of God in the canonization process, informs me day by day, no pun intended. How can I forget the three T's, Blessed Mother Theresa, who stole my heart when I was very much a Protestant, and Therese, the little flower, who haunted me in Africa, urging me to think small, and do little things with great love. Our intentional community here in Lexington is called the Little Way in her honor. Certainly the Great Teresa, my dear friend, Teresa of Avila, drew very close to me, especially as I was writing God Alone Is Enough. St. Blaise, however? Insert blank stare here. Dude was a totally mystery.

Fr. Norman told us that St. Blaise was a Bishop and martyr, who is well known as a patron of those with throat problems because he is known for having saved the life of a child who was choking on a fishbone. Traditionally, the blessing of the throat takes uses two candles, crossed together and tied by red ribbon (ours were white ribbons, who know why.). With the crossed candles the priest or deacon says a blessing. I needed a blessing, and I didn't care if I had to swing a chicken around my head. Mama has work to do! Fortunately, no chickens were harmed on my way back to into God's pure, and wondrous hands.

I trotted down the aisle, full of hope. I may have sucked at church attendance and service recently, but darn it, God is good all the time, and all the time God is good. I happen to believe he's rich in mercy and willing to share. So there I was, Deacon James before me, with the crossed candle stick. My dear friend and Parish Priest Fr. Norman beside him, busy blessing those in his line. I felt surrounded by love. These were the words deacon prayed over me:

Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, May god deliver you from ever disease of the throat.

Deacon James paused there, his eyes alight with compassion when he looked at me. And from every other illness, he added. He knew how much I've wriggler, and at that moment I felt the warmth of healing grace spread through me.

So why is this blessing so important to me? Is it because I've had strep throat twice since, September, and numerous viruses and infections? No. Well those matters were important, and I am happy to find a prayer/blessing respite, but more than that it was high time to bless my voice because I've been too quiet.

When I was with Raphael, I lost my voice. Not my physical voice, but my soul/spirit voice. I wrote a little, sprinkles of poetry here, a smattering of shiny prose there, but when your personhood is attacked regularly, it becomes harder to trust yourself. When you keep yourself deeply connected to one who lacks respect for your basic, most essential being, the most authentic you, and all your instincts and clearest impulses are blunted. My voice, when I met Raphael, was faltering at best. I was just growing into being a woman. In speaking like a woman. Post Raphael I was a mess. All the beautiful songs I used to sing were stuck in my throat.

When I say songs, I don't mean literal songs, though they too, ceased. I mean the music the breath of life makes as it soars out of you. I mean letting light and life pour out of you. I mean using your gifts, every gift, to serve.

At the end of the week, when I thought I'd be writing the next NPWitY chapter, I was busy dreaming. I visited downtown galleries on my lunch break Friday. I pored over artful blogs. I asked myself a lot of questions that needed to be clarified. I schemed and dreamed, and signed up for every free e-course that would help me with my holy mission.

Months ago I read a book by Rachelle Mee Chapman recommended to her lovely, winsome Flock. It's called Style Statement. I am a Sacred Creative. I believe and long for artful soul work, and it's time to use that voice, right here in cyberspace.

All week I felt afraid, mostly that I wouldn't be able to take care of my family. Now, I'm certain that God loves me more than the sparrows he takes care of, and his abundance is available. It's a love thing. God, in his love, cares for his children. Part of his care was the blessing of the throat, a blast of much needed healing. I am ready. To. SING!

More soon.


Nedra Smith said...

Hi, Mair. I often don't know what to say, but I'm certainly praying for you at this moment. (I had strep, too, in January.) It's so important to have the support of one's church family, whatever the state of one's health.

Towards the end of this entry, you said something that I think is going to stick with me for a good while:

"...when your personhood is attacked regularly, it becomes harder to trust yourself."

That thought is so true. Perhaps, since it's yours anyway, you'll use it in the memoir.

At any rate, may God bless you and your family as you all go the changes. May He allow you to know and speak the truth without being intimidated by reminders from the past. Just have a blessed 2011.

--Nedra in VA

MaryAnn M said...

i love you.

"Fortunately, no chickens were harmed on my way back ..."

i do understand about losing your voice...

~Leslie said...


Wendy said...

I found your blog because a friend of mine posted recently that she would read "anything by Claudia Mair Burney". Well of course I had to google you, and ended up here on your blog. (Now I just need to go find some of your books!)

Anyway - it must be a God thing because here you were, writing about St. Blaise this past Monday, the very day I was telling a friend about his story and how 20 or so years ago, through St. Blaise's intercessions, God healed my chronic throat problems.

I had recently been chrismated into the Orthodox Church and was slowly learning about the lives of the saints. When I read about St. Blaise, I immediately started asking him to pray to God for my healing. I had 3 young children and was sick constantly.

No bright lights or fanfare, but guess what? The chronic sore throat infections stopped and I haven't had one since.

I guess I also want to say: welcome to the historic faith and all the blessings, saints, and sacraments that come with it - hopefully someday East and West will be back in communion together.

St. Blaise pray for us all, as God blesses our throats and heals our lost voices.

Rachel said...

Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa ( may be another choice. i know alot of people use it, its also non alcoholic, though it's effectiveness is not as good as alcohol based cough medicine, but it's still good to use on not so serious sore throat.