May ‘skis’ be with you: Aspen’s Catholic church blesses equipment for the season ahead
In some Catholic communities, where agriculture or fishing drive the economy, a priest might bless farm equipment or a fleet of boats. But in Aspen, where the main industry is recreation and hospitality, parishioners bring their skis and other equipment to church for a good dousing of holy water.
The “Blessing of the Skis and Snowboards” is an annual tradition at St. Mary Catholic Church. Father Joe Grady invoked St. Bernard, the patron saint of the Alps (and of skiers, snowboarders, hikers and climbers) during the blessing on Sunday.
“Bless, O Lord, we pray, these skis — that all who use them in traversing mountains, heights and precipices, in powder and in snow, in blizzard and in tempest, may be preserved from all danger and catastrophe, traveling without harm on their journey and returning safely to their homes,” Grady prayed.
Deacon Phil Harrington also led a series of prayers for “peace, prosperity and safety,” for “abundant snowfall,” and for the hospitality and resort workers who welcome visitors to Aspen and support the community’s economy.
“And we pray for all those who have died on these mountains, especially those who worked in the silver mines, or skied on these hills, for their quick entry into paradise, and for the peace and consolation of their families,” Harrington prayed.
The ceremony is unusual, even for a ski town, but it’s fitting for the community at St. Mary: parishioners sometimes attend mass in their ski clothes, and a former pastor, Father Darrick Leier, hit the slopes with a custom snowboard that had “Ave Maria” printed on the base. This winter, Grady said he hopes to organize some community ski days as a “less intimidating” way for new people to connect with the church.
“What we do during the week is not disconnected from what we do here on Sunday,” Grady told those who came for the blessing.