In 2004, I became that convert who immediately jumped, with both feet, into all things Catholic. I was the one running to the Religious Goods store regularly, because, of course, I now needed a crucifix for every room, statues of our confirmation saints, candles, framed images and all the prayer cards I could find. Our children were young and I was doing everything I could to teach them about all the new things – feasts days, go-to saints, prayers and more. Sacramentals were new to me and I loved everything about them. I fell in love with the celebratory nature of the Church and the ways Catholics made ordinary things feel special and important and an extension of our faith. Learning to relate to a saint, understanding their patronage and asking for their intercession was still very new to me, but I yearned to have this sense of holy in my everyday life.
In the fall of 2020, our daughter, and youngest, enrolled in a tiny Catholic university about a 9-hour drive from home and she tucked her St Therese doll (her BFF saint) into her backpack, packed her Holy Trinity crucifix, grabbed her rosary and set off for new adventures. Unfortunately, I’m not sure she could have had a worse experience -she was away from home for the first time during a global pandemic and was hit with isolation, loneliness, illness and a car accident while she was headed home for Thanksgiving. Gratefully, both she and the driver walked away with no injuries but the car didn’t survive. Six months later, while driving car #2 on her way to school, she lost control of the car and hit the concrete median. Again, we were so grateful that, although this car also didn’t survive, she walked away with only two front teeth broken, busted blood vessels in her eye and a concussion.
Bless This Vehicle With Your Holy Hand
Of all the sacramentals and blessings we were familiar with, a car blessing didn’t seem to fall on our radar until recently. It just wasn’t something I’d heard much of or even seen much of but after your baby girl is in, not one but two auto accidents, you are open to all the supernatural help you can get. I had worked in full-time parish ministry for quite some time but had rarely seen anyone having their car blessed so, I almost felt a bit sheepish requesting it of our Associate Pastor before our daughter set off with a third new-to-her car. He kindly obliged on a dreary, cold, rainy weekday afternoon. He prayed from the Book of Blessings, “…bless + this vehicle with your holy hand. Appoint your holy angels as an escort over it, who will always shield its passengers and keep them safe from accidents…” It was such a beautiful experience that both my daughter and I had to wipe away our slow rolling tears.
St Frances of Rome – A New Friend in My “Catholic Arsenal”
Frances was born on March 9, 1384, in Rome, Italy. At the age of 11 she felt strongly that she was called to religious life – living for and with God, but soon became a reluctant bride at the age of 13 in a marriage arranged by her parents. She was a dedicated mother and wife whose devotion to God led her to care and feed those who had nothing. This holiness didn’t give her supernatural protection from heartache, loss, and personal suffering, but it did give her purpose.
Living in the fifteenth century, Frances lived through a war and a plague, buried two of her three children, nursed her husband of 40 years until his death and yet never lost her heart for service to the poor. From just before 1420 and until her death in 1440, it is said that Frances had bodily visions of her guardian angel who lit the path before her as she traveled. In 1925, Pope Pius XI declared Frances a saint and the patron of motorists. (He was also the first pope to travel in an automobile.)
Lord God, Be Well Disposed To Our Prayers
As Catholics, we are taught to strive for holiness and sainthood – to live a life “set apart”. So, whether it’s the cross I wear around my neck, the stuffed St Therese doll in my daughter’s bag or the blessed cars we drive, I want to lean into the gifts of the Church. Thankfully, we aren’t asked to go it alone – we’re created for community and the communion of saints is a pretty powerful connection! (CCC 962)
St Frances died more than 450 years before automobiles showed up on the scene, but through her faith and life, we are reminded that God goes before us. Through Frances’ bodily visions of her guardian angel lighting her way, we can know she was set apart. And, almost twenty years since I was that baby Catholic, I know my most favorite sacramentals don’t provide me with a holy forcefield per se, but I believe they serve as reminders that I am set apart. Those blessings prayed over me and my things, prepare me for the grace of the sacraments and help me to be more Christ-like in my everyday life. (CCC 1670)
Each time our daughter hits the road to travel to school or back home, I’ve implored her guardian angel to watch over her, I’ve asked St Therese to intercede for her safety and now I’m asking, “St Frances of Rome, pray for her!”. I know these blessings and prayers won’t lower the astronomical insurance premium, raise the resale value of the car or even guarantee no more accidents, but they are all solid reminders to me and her that she is called to holiness and she is set-apart. I pray these blessings incite in her the virtues of prudence (wisdom), fortitude (courage) and temperance (self-control) even as she drives.
I will always love the celebratory nature of the Church and the way of making everday things holy. I will always have a desire to relate to new saint, understand their patronage and ask for their intercession. So, on March 9 – the feast of St Frances of Rome – I may be one of few, but I’m headed to request a blessing for my car.
St Frances of Rome, pray for us.