Today we celebrate the feast of St. Blaise, a fourth century bishop and martyr and the patron saint of throat ailments. As legend goes, at his command, a child choking on a fish bone was able to cough it up. On this day, all over the world, our throats are blessed to deliver us from any throat ailments. I have recently begun to see that throat ailments should be considered more broadly.
I have a new student, Laura, who just started working on her GED. She explained to me that she was coming to the Learning Center to find her voice. She described an experience with a doctor who did not listen to her; feeling that she could not express herself clearly since she was not educated.
The most common definition of voice is “the sound uttered through the mouth of human beings in speaking” (Webster) but it is also the ability to communicate, articulate and proclaim. It is the ability to express a wish, choice or opinion openly and formally.
All Laura wanted was to be able to share her understanding of her health with her doctor and to be heard by him. How often have you felt that you didn’t have a voice?
What stops individuals or groups from having a voice? Sometimes, the person we are trying to communicate with does not want to hear us. We may be ignored because we are poor, uneducated, an immigrant, a woman, a Catholic (or Christian or Jew or Muslim or…), a Democrat (or Republican), the black sheep of the family or a prophet.
There is, however, a time when we will always be heard…when we speak to God. Regardless of the topic, tone or intention, we have a voice with God. If we can accept that God hears us unconditionally, we are open to hearing others, to accepting their voice. We know God hears us because of the many, many times that Jesus welcomes the voice of the outsider, the stranger, the sorrowing.
Consider Blind Bartimaeus who tells Jesus, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!” and he can see (Luke 18:41), or the royal official who asks, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies” and the boy lives (John 4:40), or one of the most elegant descriptions of hearing the voice, the woman who merely touches Jesus’ cloak and is cured (Luke 8:48). Throughout the scriptures, we see Jesus “hearing” the voices of those in need, listening to them and acting.
Today, if you get your throat blessed you might also consider asking St. Blaise to deliver you not just from physical throat ailments but also to give you the courage and wisdom to use your voice and to hear the voice of others.