In honor of St. Blaise, a spicy yet soothing, “nice cuppa”

I never approach St. Blaise Day casually.

It’s a family thing.

St. Blaise, you probably already know, is the patron saint of throat ailments. Getting your throat blessed on his memorial, according to pious belief, will help guard against such infections.  That belief meant a lot to generations of kin folk who remembered only too clearly the days before antibiotics when people perished from throat ailments.

Whether we were visiting the elders in Newark or staying at home, we knew that attention must be paid to the area between chin and collarbone on St. Blaise Day, Feb. 3.  Nothing was more important than having Father Slattery or Father Hess hold crossed beeswax candles up to your neck while imploring heaven to make it a germ free zone.

One of the real fringe benefits of working for the diocese is being able to observe this custom right in the Pastoral Center with colleagues. It’s a tradition here for Msgr. James G. Innocenzi, pastor of St. George Parish, Titusville, who is also an assistant diocesan chancellor and an associate judicial vicar, to bless the throats of the employees, which he did this afternoon.

Now, my throat is feeling fine but I’ll probably have what my grandmothers and mother would always refer to as a “nice cuppa” tea when I get home as a healthful chaser. The “grans” usually infused such a brew with lemon, honey and a “drop of the pure.”  Mom was more likely to add honey — and at the urging of my holistically oriented father — some cayenne pepper which has a reputation for its anti-inflamatory properties.

This recipe for a tea that combines all these elements (the ‘drop of pure’ is optional) has been adapted from childhood memories and several internet sites. 

St. Blaise Day Tea

Ingredients: 1 bag tea (I like Twining’s Irish Breakfast Tea); 1 cup spring water brought to a gently rolling boil; cayanne pepper according to taste – if your palate is spice friendly, a half-teaspoon is fine. If you are spice sensitive, 1/8 to 1/4 of a teaspoon is probably better; 2 tsp. good honey; juice of half a lemon.

Directions: Bring the cup of water to a boil, add the pepper and boil for several minutes, then remove from the heat. Pour the water into the cup, add the teabag and brew til the water is nicely caramel colored. Add the honey and lemon, stir well and sip when it’s at a comfortable temperature.


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