With holy water, rector says "Bless this bike"
His white robe gleaming under the bright sun, Rev. Steven R. Godfrey, rector of St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Des Plaines, stood in his church's parking lot Sunday surrounded by bikers and their motorcycles.
Accompanied by Eucharistic ministers Nancy Pardee and Nancy Modrow, he went to each bike and intoned, "Bless this bike and its riders, in the name of the father and the son and the Holy Spirit. Amen," tossing holy water on the vehicle.
After Godfrey blessed a number of the bikes and their riders, he went one step further, blessing a walker and its owner.
It was the church's first Blessing of the Bikes ceremony. Not only did bikers from St. Martin's attend the event, which also offered a post-blessing feast, but so did bikers from Willow Creek Community Church and its bikers' group, the Highroad Riders.
"People get tired of groups that ride from bar to bar, so they look to the churches," said Lucia Corcoran, one of the Highroad Riders.
She said the group, which numbers 300, worships and rides together.
"We watch out for each other and pray for each other," she said.
Godfrey is not a biker, but his late bother Jim was.
"He died about 10 years ago, not in a motorcycle crash. We all expected him to go in a fiery crash, on some canyon road going 150 miles an hour. But, no, he had a heart attack on his bicycle. But he would have liked this," Godfrey said.
The idea for the motorcycle blessing grew from another event that took place Sunday, the baptism of a member of the congregation, Ed "Heavy" Kastrul, a biker who lives in Des Plaines and works for Randy's Cycle in Marengo.
"We baptized Ed, and when we were talking about baptism, he said that he would love to invite some of his friends to come to his baptism, and why don't we have a blessing of the bikes at the same time," Godfrey said.
They'd heard it had been done at other churches, and thought it was a great idea.
"I thought it was a great way to share our faith, the faith that he is professing today in his baptism, with the wider community," Godfrey said.
His dark hair reaching below his shoulders as he sat on his Victory motorcycle, Kastrul, 47, said the day held special meaning for him.
"I never really had any religion in my life as a young man. I was in an orphanage when I was young, so I didn't have a lot of religion. But when I moved to this area, I wanted to be a positive part of my new community, so I joined this local church. They made me feel welcome," he said.
Godfrey said he thinks bikes and religion mix.
"I think you heard the reading from Ezekiel, about how God gave Ezekiel the chariot and wheels. God led us to invent these wheeled vehicles to get ourselves around and they have enabled us to do a lot of good and have a lot of fun, and I do believe that our God likes having fun and Jesus was very committed to having fun, and I think Jesus would have enjoyed riding a motorcycle."