Hundreds come together for Blessing of the Ocean

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POINT PLEASANT BEACH — Hundreds of people gathered on the beach early Tuesday morning to take part in a blessing of the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, a centuries old Catholic tradition.

The large crowd spilled out of Jenkinson’s Pavilion, where Mass was celebrated Aug. 15, onto the beach de- spite the early morning rain showers.

Following the Mass a congregation of around 500 parishioners — adults, children, families and seniors — took to the beach to join Rev. Robert Benko and raise their hands in blessing the ocean waters.

“Today we gather to bless this ocean and those who will use it for work or pleasure,” Rev. Benko said.

“We commend those who sail on these waters or work or enjoy them for recreation.

“[We pray] for those who labor on these beaches and keep us safe, especially our lifeguards.

“[We pray] in remembrance of those who have labored at sea and who have lost their lives … let us remember them and their families.”

The Mass and blessing are a traditional aspect of the Feast of The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is celebrated by Roman Catholics.

According to the St. Peter Church newsletter, the cus- tom originated in 15th centu- ry Italy when a bishop travel- ing on the feast day from Venice during a storm at sea, prayed [and] threw his pas- toral ring into the sea and the waters became calm.

“God of boundless love … you have given us this rich resource for our enjoyment. Let this ocean and all those who will use it be protected from the dangers of wind and rain and the perils of the deep,” Rev. Benko prayed.

According to Rev. Benko, the blessing is an annual tradition, asking for divine protection to make sure the people who come to the ocean for recreation or work are safe.

For more on this story, read The Ocean Star—on newsstands Friday or online in our e-Edition.