OCEAN CITY, Md. – Dozens of parishioners, fellow Catholics and friends gathered for the annual blessing of the water on Thursday, Aug. 15.
St. Mary Star of the Sea parishioners went to Mass before carrying a cross and walking to the beach to bless the ocean and the lifeguards, first responders and others who bring so much to this resort town. Salt water is the lifeblood of the vacation spot located in the Diocese of Wilmington on a spit of land surrounded by the ocean and bays.
The event is also the feast of the Assumption and Mary was very much a part of the event. The blessing is an annual tradition, although it’s uncertain when it first began.
St. Mary’s is closed for some much-needed renovations and parishioners walked from what some call “the new church” or Holy Savior across Philadelphia and Baltimore Streets to the beach at 17th Street. The wooden cross was placed in the sand and parishioners circled around Bishop Malooly and Father John Solomon as the service began. Tourists leaned from hotel windows and visitors paused on the boardwalk to listen and watch.
That makes the event an ideal one for evangelization, according to Director of Faith Formation Rita Danhardt, who answered questions and watched as people turned their attention more to the bible and less to the boardwalk. The heat of the day had passed on a pleasant, but overcast evening, as the Bishop led the congregation in prayer.
Most people had already left the beach, but the Blessing still turned heads and drew attention.
She said this is the kind of event which sticks with young people and said it reminded her of her youth in Wildwood, N.J. “I hope it will bring these kids back,” she said. “It takes me back.”
“It really is a beautiful family thing,” she said.
She noted that it was members of the youth group who carried the wooden cross.
Bishop Malooly agreed that the blessing is an opportunity to take your faith outside the church walls and have an impact upon others. He said he always tells students at confirmation to do these three things — “pray, serve and smile.”
“Smile a lot and let people know you’re blessed,” he said.
The Bishop had blessed the addition and renovation work at St. Mary earlier that afternoon. He has attended the Blessing of the Water for the last 11 years and looks forward to it each summer.
“Loving God, look with favor on our endeavor,” the congregation prayed. “May the abundance of your love and grace be poured out upon the men and women at sea, protect them from the elements and assist them in living a Christian lifestyle both aboard ship and on shore. Send down your blessings on our servants, who so graciously devote themselves to helping others. We pray for those who guard this beach so that we may all be safe. Keep them all in your care and keep them safe.”
“We the parishioners of St. Mary Star of the Sea welcome all to join us in the blessing of the ocean — a Catholic tradition going back hundreds of years that we remember on this day in honor of our Blessed Mother,” according to an explanation on the Blessing program.
” . . . We ask Mary to intercede for us through her son Jesus to bless all of those who play, live and make their living around the beautiful ocean. We pray, in particular, today for those that protect us, our beach patrol, police and first responders.”
“Give them strength and courage,” prayed Bishop Malooly.