Every year, the southern Italian port town of San Foca celebrates the Catholic festival of Madonna of the Sea, in which the Virgin Mary is called upon to bless seafarers, sailors, and the beach. Normally, this includes processions, a special mass, and other celebrations. This year, it involved a paddle boat.
Local priest Don Mario Calogiuri is known for heading down to the local beach for the annual blessing. This year, he brought a five-foot statue of Madonna with him, but when he arrived, Calogiuri decided he needed to do more than a seaside service. He took to the ocean. A local retailer provided a small plastic paddle boat and the Virgin was hoisted on top. Amid the buck and sway of the waves, two helpers held the icon in place while Calogiuri proclaimed his blessing through a megaphone.
In previous years, Calogiuri has preached the gospel from between the deckchairs and ice-cream stands, wearing only tiny sky blue swim shorts. “I want to meet people under their beach umbrellas, in a place where you do not usually think about religion,” he said to Urban News. “But you should not forget Jesus.”
Though the festival originally called on the Virgin to shield fishermen from the elements, it now seems to have expanded to cover beachgoers and revelers. No word on whether Calogiuri asked her to protect these bathers from sunburn.