Sunday, Mondor will again be one of several religious leaders gathering at the pier for the third annual event, in which representatives from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Zoroastrian and other communities pay tribute to the ocean. Following the ceremony, surfers are invited to hit the waves for a paddle-out — and Mondor, who plans to wear a wetsuit under his Franciscan friar's robe, may be among them.
The event, which drew about 400 people its first year, saw its turnout more than triple last year, and organizers expect up to 2,000 people to crowd Pier Plaza on Sunday. Diocese spokesman Ryan Lilyengren noted that while the Blessing was scheduled on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, the event's theme resounded with all religions.
"Every faith has a very strong connection with the environment, and particularly with the ocean," he said. "So this event is really using the ocean as a medium to bring all these different faith traditions together."
The Blessing, however, is open even to those without a religious affiliation. The event will start with bands playing Polynesian, Samoan and American surf music, followed by prayers by the different faith leaders. The crowd will then head down to the shoreline for another prayer — the "blessing of the waves" — before the bands play again and surfers take the water.
Father Matt Munoz of St. Irenaeus Catholic Church in Cypress, who is also participating for the third time this year, said the Blessing has a personal significance for him: Every time he immerses himself in the ocean, he remembers his own baptism as a child. In addition, the lifelong surfer rode some of his first waves near the Huntington Beach Pier.
Given Huntington's reputation, Munoz said, the ceremony also works as a tribute to Surf City, but he stressed the universality of the message.
"When you stand here and give the blessing, you're sending it out to so many countries in the world," Munoz said. "We're not just sending it out to our small community."
If You Go
What: Blessing of the Waves
Where: Huntington Beach Pier
When: 9 to 11 a.m. Sunday
Information: (714) 282-3045