The Virgin Mary on a paddle boat? One priest’s beach blessing

Rome, Italy, Aug 3, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA).- Every August, for the feast of the Madonna of the Sea, Italian priest Father Mario Calogiuri takes to the beach of San Foca to bless swimmers and seafarers "between the deckchairs and umbrellas" in a blue swimsuit, according to Italian source La Repubblica.

But this year, he decided to go a more memorable route.

Rather than just a bible or a rosary, Fr. Calogiuri came to the beach with a five-foot statue of the Virgin Mary in tow.

Mary was then hoisted to the top of the slide of a small plastic paddle boat and taken out to sea.  

Two volunteers were needed helped to stabilize the Virgin atop the little plastic vessel, which rocked among small waves as it floated among the swimmers and Father issued blessings via megaphone to a small crowd.

Typically, the feast of the Madonna of the Sea is celebrated in port towns, and is a time for blessing sailors and fishermen, who pray for safety and a profitable year.

In recent years, Fr. Calogiuri has more liberally applied the feast to beachgoers of all kinds.

In 2013, he told Italian news source Urban News that it can be easy to forget about Jesus at the beach, so that’s why he has taken to blessing swimmers and revelers.  

"I want to meet people under the umbrella…in a place where you do not usually think about religion, but you do not have to forget Jesus," he said.

An Italian priest brought the Virgin Mary to festival beachgoers in a paddle boat

— Atlas Obscura (@atlasobscura) August 1, 2017

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