Today is, of course the First Friday of the month, always a wonderful occasion for special graces at Mass, and tomorrow is the First Saturday of the month. February 3 is also the feast of St. Blaise so make sure you get your throats blessed.

The feast of St. Blaise is celebrated in many ways around the world and he holds a place of honor in a number of countries. In medieval times, servile labor was even forbidden on his feast in England. And countless faithful mark the annual blessing of throats on St. Blaise’s February 3 feast. We know more about ways of celebrating this saint than we do about his life, but for sure he was a bishop and was martyred in his episcopal city of Sebastea, Armenia, in 316.

The story is told that, notwithstanding that the Edict of Toleration (311) granting freedom of worship in the Roman Empire had been enacted five years earlier, Blaise was forced to flee to the country where he lived in a cave as a hermit, in solitude and prayer, but he made friends with wild animals. One day a group of hunters came to the area and entered Blaise’s cave where he was about to eat, surrounded by wild, but patiently waiting, animals.

Now the legend comes to life: As the hunters hauled Blaise off to prison, a mother came with her young son who had a fishbone lodged in his throat, she asked the bishop for help and, at his command, the child was able to cough up the bone. Blaise was heretofore evoked by people with any kind of malady of the throat, including choking, of course. The story goes on to say that the woman brought two crossed candles to Blaise in prison so that his cell would have more light, and that, it seems, led to the idea of blessing throats with crossed candles.

At 5:30 this afternoon in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass to mark the World Day of Consecrated Life with thousands of religious and members of Societies of Apostolic life. This celebration coincides with the liturgical feast of the Presentation of the Lord. In 1997, Pope Saint John Paul II instituted this feast as a universal day of prayer for consecrated men and women. For pastoral purposes, the celebration in local churches is often moved to the following Sunday.


I urge you to stay tuned after the news segment of Vatican Insider this weekend for Part II of my conversation with Marianne Mount, president of CDU, Catholic Distance University.

When in Rome not long ago for a Catholic conference, she met with officials at the Congregation for Catholic Education who expressed great interest in the idea of distance learning. She should be very pleased because last Monday, a new papal document on pontifical universities came out called Veritatis gaudium (the joy of truth) that actually made provisions for “distance learning,” whose possibilities have increased significantly in the last 40 years since the previous Apostolic Constitution on pontifical universities, Sapientia christiana in 1979.

If you want an online degree in theology, philosophy or a number of other fields, Marianne will tell you how. You can also go

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At 9.30 this morning, in the Clementine Hall, Pope Francis received participants in the Conference “Tackling violence committed in the name of religion,”

“Dear Friends, I offer you a warm welcome and I thank you for your presence. It is highly significant that political authorities and religious leaders can meet to discuss how to respond to acts of violence committed in the name of religion.

“I would begin by reiterating what I have often stated, and in particular during my visit to Egypt: “God, the lover of life, never ceases to love man, and so he exhorts us to reject the way of violence. Above all and especially in our day, religions are called to respect this imperative since, for all our need of the Absolute, it is essential that we reject any ‘absolutizing’ that would justify violence. For violence is the negation of every authentic religious expression… We have an obligation to denounce violations of human dignity and human rights, to expose attempts to justify every form of hatred in the name of religion, and to condemn these attempts as idolatrous caricatures of God” (Address to Participants in the International Peace Conference, Al-Azhar Conference Centre, Cairo, 28 April 2017).

“Violence promoted and carried out in the name of religion can only discredit religion itself. Consequently, such violence must be condemned by all, and especially by genuinely religious persons, who know that God is always goodness, love and compassion, and that in him there is no room for hatred, resentment or vengeance. The religious person knows that among the greatest blasphemies is to invoke God as the justification for one’s own sins and crimes, to invoke him in order to justify killing, mass murder, enslavement, exploitation in whatever form, oppression and persecution of individuals and entire populations. The religious person knows that God is the Holy One, and that no one can claim to use his name in order to perpetrate evil. Every religious leader is called to unmask any attempt to manipulate God for ends that have nothing to do with him or his glory. We need to show, with unremitting effort, that every human life is sacred, that it deserves respect, esteem, compassion and solidarity, without regard for ethnicity, religion, culture, or ideological and political convictions.

“Adherence to a particular religion does not confer additional dignity and rights upon individuals, nor does non-adherence deny or diminish them. There is a need, then, for a common commitment on the part of political authorities, religious leaders, teachers and those engaged in the fields of education, training and communications, to warn all those tempted by perverse forms of misguided religiosity that these have nothing to do with the profession of a religion worthy of this name. This will help all those people of good will who seek God to encounter him in truth, to encounter the One who sets us free from fear, hatred and violence, and who desires to use the creativity and energy of each person to spread his plan of love and peace, which is offered to all.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I renew my appreciation for your readiness to engage in reflection and dialogue on a subject of such dramatic import, and for your expert contribution to the growth of a culture of peace always founded on truth and love. May God bless you and your work. Thank you.”