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Just in time for busy bike season: The Blessing of the Bikes

Posted by on June 2nd, 2009 at 9:38 am

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A scene from last year’s
Blessing of the Bikes.
(Photos © J. Maus)

For the second year in a row, The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (St. Mary’s) in Northwest Portland will host a Blessing of the Bikes — and it couldn’t come at a better time.

With summer bike traffic heating up, I’ve been getting a noticeable increase in emails and phone calls about bike-car, bike-bike, and bike-pedestrian collisions. It’s also a busy time for bike racers, who face perils of their own. And it goes without saying that June has by far the highest number of bike-related events of any month in the year.

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At the Blessing of the Bikes last year, Deacon Thomas Gornick welcomed a few dozen people to the courtyard at St. Mary’s. In the crowd were Susie Kubota and Sophie Sparling, aunt and mom of Tracey Sparling, the woman who lost her life while on her bike back in October 2007.

Here’s more about Sunday’s event from the flyer:

If you ride for pleasure, commute, or race…
If you ride an old or new, mountain or street bike…
If you have just started or have ridden for years…

All are welcome to the Blessing of the Bikes.

During the short program, Deacon Gornick will bless riders and their bicycles and will take a moment to remember those who have died in past years.

    Blessing of the Bikes
    Cathedral of Immaculate Conception (St. Mary’s) (NW 18th and Couch)
    Sunday, June 7 – 2 – 2:30 pm

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  • Quentin June 2, 2009 at 10:06 am

    As if their primitive superstitious rituals made any difference at all.

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  • amos June 2, 2009 at 10:12 am

    I love this. Why not bless such a big part of your life?

    Look for this to be a regular feature from The Bike Temple, many of us are ordained and ready to roll!

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  • buglas June 2, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Aww, Quentin. If it makes no difference, then it does no harm. Just think of it as one more event that grows bicycle awareness for people who don’t bike.

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  • Mike June 2, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Seriously Quentin, lighten up. I think it’s a great ritual!

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  • velo June 2, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Quentin – We win with broad coalitions and by making non-traditional alliances work. No need to disparage others out of hand because you disagree with their religious convictions.

    I’m an atheist, but I think this is really cool. It’s a nice way to raise a little public awareness and honor those who have been killed. Ride safe and be careful out there.

    Maybe we need a universal bicycle prayer/mantra/chant/etc: Give us this our daily bicycle ride…

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  • indy June 2, 2009 at 10:54 am

    This is stupid. Mumbling for bikes? Can we waste more human effort in pointless tasks?

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  • Nick June 2, 2009 at 11:15 am

    I’m an atheist too, but I recognize that rituals like this are important and meaningful for a lot of people. No need to disparage something good-natured like this.

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  • Dave June 2, 2009 at 11:16 am

    +1 Quentin

    Sure it does no harm, except for proliferate and excuse the fangs of guilt, fear and abuse that have been peddled by the catholic crockery for centuries. Why give any heed to their bronze-age wing-nuttery? Let’s create some new rituals that are positive and relevant, instead of being afraid of offending those who cling to their childish beliefs.

    Then again, it’s easy enough to simply not show up.

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  • Quentin June 2, 2009 at 11:20 am

    The problem I have with the ceremony is that underneath all the ceremony and show, the clergy are essentially claiming that their ritual will keep you safe, when in reality their ritual will do no more to keep you safe than sacrificing a goat or carrying a lucky rabbit’s foot in your pocket. It’s a shameless appeal to fantasy and wishful thinking.

    If someone wants to carry a lucky rabbit’s foot in their pocket for safety or good luck, that’s their business, but when a group presents their beliefs to the public with the implication that they have some actual effect or benefit, they should expect critical minds to express skepticism.

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  • David C. June 2, 2009 at 11:24 am

    I tend to think of my bike as an appliance. Like a toaster or washing machine. Yes. Let’s bless the bikes. My toaster too while we’re at. Damned thing is burning toast.

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  • Brad June 2, 2009 at 11:26 am

    I put more faith in the power of God than that of the BTA after this last legislative session!

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  • indy June 2, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Let’s put it this way. Would We appreciate it if the North America Man/Boy Love Association blessed bikes?

    I see no difference.

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  • buglas June 2, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Without any claim or implication of any positive result, without any training, special experience, or safety harnesses to back me up, and without anybody’s permission or approval, I give you all – cyclists, bikes, toasters, washing machines, and even motorists, to name a few – happy thoughts, warm fuzzies, and if you wish to use the words, my personal blessings. It can’t hurt. Enjoy the ride. If you want more, it’s in the story above. If you don’t buy into it, go in peace.

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  • huey lewis June 2, 2009 at 11:54 am

    if it makes no difference, so it’s not doing any harm, then the flip side to that is also true in that it’s not doing any good.

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  • ScottG June 2, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    I have a great memory from high school when my pastor led a bike ride out to a local lake and back. It was about a 15-mile round trip ride, and most of the people participating had never ridden that far before. He also blessed our bikes before the ride.

    It was just a fun, summer day event. A great youth group activity I would highly recommend to the people who run them.

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  • Taija June 2, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    These hateful comments have no relevance to this article or to the purpose of BikePortland.org. Religion isn’t just always a spiritual practice, but is also part of one’s culture for many. An event that builds a bridge between two aspects of one’s life is great. Events like this help show to the larger public that there are people who ride bikes, people like me and you. People who ride bikes, with the focus being on people not the bike. Comments that attack this peaceful event re-enforce the outsider’s perspective that one must belong to “bicyclist advocacy” to be a true Portland bicyclist, which makes bicycling as a mode of transportation even more inaccessible to the larger masses. There is no need to bash a peaceful community event. Why burn bridges while you are still trying to build them?

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  • Schrauf June 2, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I knew the comments on this thread would be entertaining.

    I’m atheist but don’t see the harm. True – the Church has a sordid history, in some ways similar to the KKK and other such groups, but the difference is they are widely accepted by society and we need the support.

    Kind of like if Rush Limbaugh came out pro-bike. I’d feel very dirty, but recognize the fact as a result 1/3 of America might become somewhat more aware of bikes as viable sources of transportation, health and fun.

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  • Nick June 2, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    I think calling criticism of religion “hateful” is a bit extreme in itself.

    But yeah, these arguments about religion always happen on the internet. It really has nothing to do with bikes.

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  • Michael M. June 2, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    “All are welcome to the Blessing of the Bikes.”

    Color me skeptical. I find it hard to believe that “all are welcome” to any event organized by an institution that actively campaigns to rip families apart and deny equal treatment under the law to a whole class of individuals who’s sexual orientation members of said institution claim to find suspect.

    So maybe, Taija, you can find “hateful” comments to a post about said institution’s plans inappropriate, but they don’t really do any damage in the scheme of thing. The brand of hatred advocated and perpetuated by the Catholic Church has a far more devastating impact on far more peoples’ lives and families, including people who ride bikes. It’s pretty difficult to “build bridges” to people who denounce you as immoral and unworthy of the basic human rights to which others are entitled.

    You can keep your blessing. Enjoy.

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  • jered June 2, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    I’m with Nick, I have read nothing “hateful” up above. I see some valid criticism of a claim that blessing a bike would keep the rider safe. I think the issue is more of a “truth in advertising” issue. Can the church provide data to back up their blessing?

    As an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church I could not in good faith make the claim that my blessing of a bike would keep you safe.

    All of that being said rituals are FUN – think of Michael Phelps pre-race arm flap, soccer players reaching down and touching the grass as they walk out onto the pitch…4th of July BBQ, turkey on thanksgiving, etc. I have ample silly rituals that make me feel better… so no problem with the ritual part either.

    Maybe the issue is just the organization doing the blessing doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to practicing what they preach.

    Religion always causes a stir… maybe that is how they stay in business

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  • Quentin June 2, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    The sordid history of the Catholic church is not really relevant to this issue, what is relevant is the implied efficacy of their ritual. Underneath all the ceremony and show is the fundamental claim that this ritual will actually IMPROVE YOUR SAFETY. The clergy is telling people that by sprinkling some water on a bike, reciting some Latin phrases, and invoking a mysterious being, you will have a better chance of surviving a crash or avoiding one altogether than if you did not attend their ritual.

    Indeed, the ceremony itself is harmless, but if someone acted on the premise that the ritual actually made them safer, they would be in for a painful surprise. Of course no one is going to do that because no one seriously believes that their ritual will improve anyone’s safety, so why are they pretending that it does?

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  • Phil B June 2, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    I see no claim that this blessing will improve safety. I see a lot of anti-church ranting, justified and otherwise. But Catholics ride bikes too. Blessings are always good (I think). If you don’t want to attend, don’t. If you do, go for it. Everyone be safe.

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  • Vance Longwell June 2, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Taija #16 – Out of the mouths of babes:

    …”re-enforce the outsider’s perspective that one must belong to “bicyclist advocacy” to be a true Portland bicyclists…”

    Wow, just when my atheist tit was about to complete the journey through the ringer, the immutable, undeniable, inescapable truth of logic knocked some sense into me.

    Way to go commenter. One of the most profound things I’ve seen written here. If I can put my hostility toward spirituality aside, what else can I get over to make bicycling the koolest thing since air?

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  • anna June 2, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    cmon, let’s leave the catholics alone.

    If it makes you feel any better I’ll ask my island peeps to ask the Noro Priestesses for blessings too. Our “primitive superstitious” ceremonies may not work for you, but perhaps it’s of some comfort to me to give an offering of food and rice wine in exchange for protections from my ancestors. Is that okay with everybody?

    I’ve been praying and making offerings at temple for years now and as long as I’m in the states, I figure I can use all the help I can get. (grin)

    in the meantime, I will refrain from participation in Catholic rituals and other things which do not serve me: the great american tradition of facetious and contemptuous commentary being one example of one such thing which does not serve me. thus, I will leave it behind, quietly and move on.

    There’s room for diversity, no?

    ride safe. we don’t need to lose any more of our community.

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  • JR June 2, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Ride Safe, don’t let a priest fool you into thinking that God is going to protect you from the jackass in the sports car. He’s not. My bike is powered by science.

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  • eileen June 2, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Okay, now tell me what you REALLY think.

    Geez, those are some pretty broad and judgmental assumptions about others’ feelings and beliefs. Especially when your main criticism is that the church isn’t open enough. Who is being closed-minded here?

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  • eileen June 2, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Quentin, How about the sordid history of humanity? It didn’t take the Catholic church for humans to be horrid to each other. It happened before the church, it happens without the church and whoa, it also happens within. The common thread? Humans.

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  • Opus the Poet June 3, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    I wonder if they will invoke the benevolence of the Madonna Ghisallo? She’s our girl, you know.

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  • Donna June 3, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Opus – that’s exactly what they did last year. It was a nice ceremony and speaking as a veteran of countless Catholic ceremonies and rituals over the course of my life, it was very welcoming of people of all faiths. It was fun and we all got a nice Our Lady of Ghisallo sticker, too.

    As I recall, the deacon who started this last year got the framework of the ceremony from parishes in San Francisco & New York. I think Jonathan reported last year that Deacon Gornick sees bikes go by a lot from the cathedral, and wanted to host something as an expression of wishing us health, safety, etc.

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  • morgan scott June 3, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Thanks for the enlightening post, Donna.

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  • Kernal Loose Nut June 4, 2009 at 3:41 am

    I believe in the power of ritual, in the power of magic, and the power of intention.

    A world built on scientific proofs is boring to me. Give me a world built on imagination, story telling, and make-believe.

    Geting my bike blessed might not increase my odds, but i am gonna have fun believing that it does. . .

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  • cold worker June 4, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Geting my bike blessed might not increase my odds, but i am gonna have fun believing that it does. . .until reality pays me a visit. Everyday that I’m not hit will be a validation of my crazy belief, until the day I’m hit, then it’s god’s plan, or karma or cosmic intention or whatever.

    Get real. It’s all perspective but it seems to me that we do live in a world where imagination, story telling and make believe have too much power in our world (as i listen on the radio to muslims, jews and christians critique Obamas speech he gave today regarding everyone getting along)

    Ride your bike and think of the physics at work. We aren’t just rolling around because we wish it to be or a god will’s it so.

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  • kernal loosie June 4, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    “until reality pays me a visit. Everyday that I’m not hit will be a validation of my crazy belief, until the day I’m hit, then it’s god’s plan, or karma or cosmic intention or whatever.”

    Speak for yourself.
    Prove that it isn’t cosmic intervention that has kept me safe for the last 13 years in the saddle. You can’t.

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  • cold worker June 4, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Kernal, if i said there were invisible gnomes and they hung out with the ghost of my grandma, in my backyard and they tend to my yard work, and you said there weren’t, then i said “oh yeah, prove there are no gnomes and my grandma’s ghost in my backyard”, you’d likely roll your eyes and think i have really irrational beliefs that you knew were not true no matter how much i might believe it.

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  • kernal June 6, 2009 at 6:18 am

    Actually, i’d think your grandma’s ghost was pretty lucky to be hangin’ with gnomes. And you were lucky to get free yard work.

    Who i am to say what you claim to experience isn’t real?

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