Modifications to St. Blaise Day, Ash Wednesday rituals

Modifications to St. Blaise Day, Ash Wednesday rituals

GREENSBURG – Faithful parishioners in the Diocese of Greensburg are preparing to celebrate two important annual rituals in February – Ash Wednesday and St. Blaise Day. But these Masses will be modified this year to protect their health and safety as part of the Diocese’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Masses on St. Blaise Day and Ash Wednesday will eliminate traditional contact between the celebrant and parishioners, as COVID-19 cases remain high in the four counties served by the diocese: Armstrong, Fayette, Indiana and Westmoreland.

St. Blaise Day, celebrated February 3 in the Roman Catholic faith, honors the patron saint of throat disease by blessing each parishioners’ throat with crossed candles. According to tradition, St. Blaise miraculously cured a boy from fatally choking on a fish bone in the year 316 AD.

 To prevent the spread of the virus during this ceremony, Bishop-elect Larry J. Kulick, J.C.L., has instructed parishes in the Diocese of Greensburg to follow guidelines from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) – saying a blessing over the entire church with crossed candles, rather than direct contact between priest and parishioner.

A similar approach will happen on Ash Wednesday on Feb. 17, a day of prayer and fasting that marks the start of the Lenten season leading up to Easter. Traditionally, ashes are placed on a person’s forehead in the shape of a cross as a reminder that we come from dust and will return to that state at death. This year, the Diocese will follow USCCB guidelines that allow ashes to be sprinkled on the heads of the faithful, preventing direct contact.

An Ash Wednesday service will be celebrated by Bishop-elect Kulick at 11:45 a.m. from Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, 300 N. Main St., Greensburg, and will be livestreamed. The Mass will be available on the diocesan website,, Facebook page and YouTube channel.

“The blessing of the throat and the imposition of ashes are a long-standing part of our ritual and the traditional life of the church,” Kulick said. “Our parishioners will still receive these blessings and can still participate in these solemn days, but the extenuating circumstances of our times require us to adapt this year.”

Parishioners can find the times for Masses on their parish websites.

The diocese has had safety protocols in place at Masses, and services such as wedding, baptisms and funerals. Visitors must wear masks and must adhere to social distancing requirements, sitting six feet apart. There also is a dispensation of the obligation to attend Mass for the foreseeable future.

Kulick encouraged the continued patience of the faithful as the Diocese continues to navigate through the pandemic.

 “I know we are all very anxious to return to some normalcy,” Kulick said. “We pray and know with God’s grace that we will get there,” Kulick said.


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