Priest Blesses Surf City Waves Sunday

One day at band camp, this kid was shredding at Bolsa Chica when he slipped off his board and yelled, "Jesus Christ." So, it is not without precedence that a priest from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange will wade into the waters near Huntington Beach Pier Sunday morning to bless the waves.

For the second straight year the diocese, "in solidarity with other faith traditions," hosts the "Blessing of the Waves." The breaks get the air cross treatment from 9-11 a.m. Sunday. The first blessing of the waves, in 2008, was an inter-religious event that drew more than 400 participants. Diocese youth groups, with participants from other faiths, took over last year and more than 1,000 took part.

Priest Blesses Surf City Waves Sunday
Illustration by Jay Brockman

Illustration by Jay Brockman

Sunday morning's event begins with an opening prayer service, a pledge to protect of our oceans and beaches, a blessing of waves and attendees, an acknowledgment of marine safety representatives, and closing remarks from surfing priests and other religious leaders. Tongan and Samoan choirs will perform traditional ocean songs, thanking God for the ocean environment.

"In Orange County our beaches are more than simple geography; they are a cultural and spiritual center of our community," explains Tod D. Brown, the bishop of Orange, in an email that found its way into my inbox despite Gustavo's pedo-priest coverage. "It is important that we recognize this common element in all our lives, regardless of faith tradition.

"Pope Benedict XVI and other spiritual leaders have called on all people to commit to the protection of the gifts of nature and preserve them for future generations," Brown continues. "As we give thanks for this natural gift we must recognize that climate change disproportionately affects the economically disadvantaged. Environmental protection and curbing climate change is a matter of social justice that demands immediate action."

Whoa, Brownie's gone Al Gore on us! Or, more likely, he's riffing off this part of Pope Benedict's 2009 Easter message: "Before it is too late, it is necessary to make courageous decisions that can recreate a strong alliance between humankind and the earth. A decisive 'yes' is needed to protect creation and also a strong commitment to invert those trends which risk leading to irreversibly degrading situations."

The Diocese email goes on to note that "California's coastal region is under significant threat due to pollution and global climate change" and that "California will lose an estimated 41 square miles of coastline due to erosion by 2100, according to the California Climate Change Center." Reading less like scripture and more like science book, the local Catholic leadership observes, "Wave height and wave shape--requisites for surfing--are adversely affected by sea floor conditions influenced by silt and other detritus entering the ocean. Our beach water quality is already dangerous to the health of swimmers and others--between April 2009 and March 2010, more than 100 beaches in California were closed because of the presence of toxic waste and other hazards."

"It is fitting that this blessing will be held on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology," says Father Christian Mondor of Sts. Simon and Jude Church in Huntington Beach, in the same release. "Our coast line and its diverse ecosystem are under constant strain and increased environmental pressures. This event seeks to remind our community that protecting the environment is central to believers in a loving Creator. I am excited to join with members of our diverse faith community here in Huntington Beach to bless waves, those who ride on them, and the lifeguards who protect ocean goers."

And also to you.

The most surprising revelation? That Catholics surf. Who knew? Next thing you know we'll be told Hindus play cricket.


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