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.

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

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
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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