Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Catholic Trivia

Almost all cultures have some ritually offered words for someone who sneezes -- the ancient Greeks, the American Indians, the rabbinical Jews, Asians, etc. Many of these groups (Talmudic Jews included) believed that sneezes could be mortal, that the soul could leave the body through the mouth during a sneeze.

It is Pope St. Gregory the Great, however, whom we have to thank for the practice of saying "God bless you" after someone sneezes. He was Pope during a time when Rome was ravaged by a certain pestilence, the symptoms of which were sneezing and yawning. In A.D. 600, he decreed that when someone sneezes, one should respond with "God bless you" to ask God's blessings for the person's health, and that when a person yawns, the Sign of the Cross should be made on his mouth.

Quoted from Fisheaters


I love the custom of blessing people when they sneeze. It's a courteous way of showing your concern for their health, and an easy way to sneak in a little prayer for them, to boot. I think everyone still does this, don't they? But, I totally see how Pope St. Gregory's other recommendation didn't catch on...

Imagine. How would it work exactly? Would all your friends and family members rush to see who can get to you first to sign you with the cross when you yawn? Maybe that would just be the job of the person standing closest to the yawner. Or does everyone stand in line and bless your mouth, one by one? Do you step over to the man on the bus and make the Sign of the Cross over his mouth? What do you do if you hear me yawning when I'm talking to you on the phone, bless the receiver? I can see accidents and mishaps and people getting smacked in the face... And I don't know about you, but my kids would just get sick of it, I yawn so much.

In fact, I'm yawning right now. Oh, no! Now I've started something, haven't I? Or is yawning contagious online?

Here. I'll bless the monitor, just in case.

Anyone with a cold out there?

Well, God Bless You!

And those of you who are neither yawning nor sneezing?

God Bless You, too!

7 comments:

Bia said...

THIS IS SO WIERD: last night i stayed up late writing a draft for a post on sneezing . . . and how different cultures respons when someone sneezes.

DO GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE, OR WHAT?

i'll post mine in a day or two.

Sarah (JOT) said...

Thank you, I needed that! God bless you for blessing me in my dire need of blessings. This cold I have is kicking me hard!

MightyMom said...

not to mention bitten fingers as the yawn ends!!

Soutenus said...

LOL - I read "yawn" and I yawned.
OK so maybe it has something to do with it being 1am.
I am yawning again --- g'night! :-)

GrandmaK said...

This is interesting. I knew about the sneezing, but had no idea about the yawning. And yes, i is contagious on-line! HEHEHEHE! Cathy

Abigail said...

Yes, it must be "catchable" as I began yawning as reading your post. :) God Bless!

Laura said...

I am a huge yawner...it's pretty obnoxious. And when I try to suppress it, I find the feeling painful.
Okay..I'm just weird.