Fr. Don Mario Calogiuri wanted to do something different for the annual Feast of the Madonna of the Sea, so he took up a heavy, five-foot statue of the Virgin Mary and headed to the beach.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) — The people of San Foca, Italy, make their living from the sea. Their town is a small fishing port on the heel of the boot of Italy. Each year they celebrate the feast of the Madonna of the Sea, a tribute to the Virgin Mary. They offer thanks for what they have and ask for blessings in the year to come. The people attend Mass, hold a parade and throw a party.
To help with the celebration, Fr. Don Mario Calogiuri decided to reach and bless more people than ever before. To accomplish this task, he needed a five-foot-tall statue of the Virgin Mary, and a paddle boat.
God always provides.
Fr. Calogiuri went to the beach with his statue and a shop gave him the use of a paddle boat, with a water slide on top. Two men volunteered to help with the statue. They hoisted the statue aboard the boat and held it steady atop the waterslide. Fr. Calogiuri manned his station on the deck below and away they went, into the sea and towards the swimmers and sunbathers on the beach.
Megaphone in one hand and a small Vatican flag in the other, Fr. Calogiuri began blessing the people in the water. Happy swimmers gathered around the boat and crossed themselves as the intrepid priest blessed all in sight.
Although the paddle boat rocked in the waves, his helpers kept the statue in place throughout the journey.
Back on dry land, statue and priest intact, Fr. Calogiuri explained that he wanted to reach more people with his blessing. He told reporters that it was important to go where the people are, and if that means under the umbrella, then you go to the umbrella.
In previous years, he took a different, but no less noticeable approach. Fr. Calogiuri used to stand on the beach between deck chairs clad only in blue swim shorts. This time, he wore his vestments to sea.
“I want to meet people under their beach umbrellas, in a place where you do not usually think about religion… but you should not forget about Jesus,” he said.