Part of the symbolism of "Blog by-the-Sea" comes from the seashell legend about St. Augustine. Pope Benedict XVI includes in his coat of arms a picture of a seashell based upon that legend. At Church of the Nativity, our priest, Msgr. Lawrence Purcell, posted on our church website an explanation of the symbolism of the scallop shell on the Pope's Coat of Arms. Here is Msgr. Purcell's explanation, which you can also find in .pdf format by clicking on the link here for Church of the Nativity:
"Benedict XVI and the Scallop Shell
For many years, I was the pastor of the parish from which Nativity was formed, St. James in Solana Beach. We used many of the symbols of another church in northern Spain by the same name, Santiago de Compostela. (Sant = saint. Iago = Jacob or James.) The main symbol of this centuries old center of pilgrimages is the scallop shell, the symbol of baptism and the life long pilgrimage or conversion that baptism entails. When Josef Ratzinger was ordained a bishop he followed the custom of creating a coat of arms that symbolized his new role. He placed on it the scallop shell. It will be interesting to see if he uses it on his papal coat of arms the way John Paul II used the M for Mary. The shell has a very personal significance for Josef Ratzinger. The shell is the symbol of baptism because closed it looks like a lifeless rock but when opened one discovers life within. He was baptized the day after his birth in 1927. It was the vigil of Easter Sunday. The liturgical revival of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) brought back the tradition of baptizing new Christians at the Solemn Easter Vigil.
The scallop shell reminds the new pope of another great theological mind, St. Augustine, about whom he wrote his doctoral dissertation. Walking along the seashore reflecting on the mystery of the Trinity, Augustine came upon a child who was using a shell to make a hole in the sand and fill it with sea water.
Augustine realized that his efforts to understand the Trinity were as futile as the child’s trying to put the entire ocean in the hole he had made in the sand. The young German scholar who has just become pope wrote: “The shell reminds me of my great master Augustine, of my own theological work and of the vastness of the mystery which surpasses all our learning.” Today, with him, we all take a step forward with that faith."