Dear Fellow Parishioners,
I’d like to touch upon a few things happening in our parish community this past week, and the time leading up to Ash Wednesday.
This past week – January 28 to February 3 – has been Catholic Schools Week, now celebrating its 50th year. Every year, our schools host what could be called a “State of the Schools” talk for all school parents. This year, because St. Vincent High School will be transitioning to independent lay management, we had a separate meeting for each school.
I am happy to say that the state of St. Vincent Elementary School is strong, and getting stronger, despite the setbacks of COVID from which others have not yet recovered. Our enrollment is right at 200, and set to continue growing. One development this year has been the expansion of our library and learning resources, thanks to a targeted $100,000 donation from a very generous school family.
The other important development is that in the fall we will be opening a new Transitional Kindergarten, to receive students who are not ready to begin kindergarten. It will extend our SVES curriculum to ten consecutive grades – TK-8th. It’s a wonderful way to introduce our youngest students to our school community so that they are ready to move forward with their friends to kindergarten and beyond. With a lot of help from others, I established a TK in my last parish, and it was majestically successful. They almost always ended up staying with our school for the entire K-8 elementary experience.
Finally, a few thoughts on the feast of St. Blaise (Feb. 3), a saint ever dearer to my heart because of my own history of throat ailments. Like many of the early martyrs of the Church (+315), little is known about him beyond his name, though Blaise was Bishop of Sebaste, Armenia (modern-day Turkey). The association with throats arose from an incident when he was in prison, and saved a boy choking on a fish bone. (Death by fish bone is not as fantastical as it sounds, in pre-penicillin days…) St. Blaise is the patron of doctors, veterinarians and a healer of ear-nose-throat illnesses.
Devotion to St. Blaise gained popularity up to the 9th century, and by the late Middle Ages, he became one of the more popular saints. The blessing of throats began in the 1500’s, when devotion to St. Blaise was at its highest. The addition of candles seems almost surely to arise from the close connection to the Feast of the Presentation the day before when, at some point, it occurred to someone to use the newly blessed candles from Candlemas to bless throats.
St. Blaise was also one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, a group of saints traditionally known for working for the safety and well-being of people, their professions, animals and everyday lives. They include St. Agathius (for headaches), Blaise (protection of throat and of domestic animals), St. Vitus (epilepsy, rabid animal bites), etc. It seemed as if for every ailment or injury, there was a saint available to attend to that need. For the medieval believer, the spiritual world was alive not only with dangers and demons, but also with saints ready to help and heal.
Blessings, Fr. Bill Donahue