OCEAN CITY, Md. — The annual blessing of the water came to this seaside resort a couple of days later than usual at the familiar surfside location.
The event celebrates the importance of the water for tourists, businesses and fishermen on this coastal strand of beach, where the water is king and everyone depends upon it.
The blessing was held on Aug. 19, but it surely was not easy this year. With masks required in public (not on the beach) and social distancing encouraged, the St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish held a scaled-down version of events in an effort to keep parishioners safe.
There was no procession from Holy Savior Church to the beach because it would be too hard to socially distance, according to Father John Solomon, parish pastor.
The historic St. Mary Star of the Sea Church a few miles south has undergone major renovation. There was no cross carried to the boardwalk and then erected upon the sand as in past years because there was no procession.
The blessing is always held on Aug. 15 to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption, but this year, the Ocean City Air Show drew thousands of spectators on that date and the parish feared gridlock and parking problems. Bishop Malooly normally attends each year, but did not do so in this most unique of pandemic times.
Usually, the blessing is followed by dinner with the international students living at the beach, but not this year as most students did not make the pilgrimage to work in shore towns that faced an uncertain summer.
So, the parish held a scaled-down version for whoever wanted to participate. As Wednesday morning began, fierce storms pelted the coast with wind and torrential rain. Then, fortunes changed. The sun came out, the temperature warmed and by mid-afternoon, the weather had turned lovely.
Seventy-one people attended the very brief ceremony and curious onlookers paused on the boardwalk to observe. As Father Solomon spoke, a pod of dolphins could be seen in the water just beyond the beach.
“You couldn’t ask for a nicer afternoon,” he said.
“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord over the mighty waters,” according to the antiphon read by Father Solomon.
“All you fountains of waters, bless the Lord. All you seas and waves, bless the Lord,” the service continued after reading of the 29th Psalm.
“Everything was scaled down,” said Father Solomon. “We wanted to do as much as we could to keep it safe, but still come together … We wanted to do something … After all, when was the last time we got together?”
“We were very excited to be able to hold the blessing this year. With all the changes and cancellations it was nice to gather as a parish,” said Director of Faith Formation Rita Danhardt.
“The waters can lead us to the glory of God,” Father Solomon said, noting that Jesus had walked upon the water and that working on the water remains a very dangerous way to earn a living.
“It’s a reminder the Lord is with us, even during these difficult times,” he said.