Life & Soul

Why I warn people before I bless cars

A priest sprinkles holy water on a car during the 'Auto-sacrum' blessing in Podkowa Lesna, Poland (CNS)

The Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter was not in a previous edition of the Roman Missal.

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, semper in nobis paschale perfice sacramentum ut, quos sacro baptismate dignatus es renovare, sub tuae protectionis auxilio multos fructus afferant, et ad aeternae vitae gaudia pervenire concedas.

Current ICEL translation (2011): “Almighty ever-living God, constantly accomplish the Paschal Mystery within us, that those you were pleased to make new in Holy Baptism may, under your protective care, bear much fruit and come to the joys of life eternal.”

Sub tuae protectionis auxilio … beneath the refuge/aid of your protection. That Latin root teg-/tect- concerns hiding, covering and shelter. The phrase calls to mind also the ancient Marian antiphon Sub tuum praesidium confugimus.

It may be that in time of need you have felt God’s powerful hand upon you in blessing and defence. Perhaps you have cried out to your Angel Guardian or Our Blessed Mother to cover you in her shielding mantle. In times of need we reactively turn our thoughts to divine assistance.

We can, however, proactively pray for blessings and protection and not wait for when the metal meets the meat. This was driven home for me recently.

Throughout my priesthood, whenever I blessed a car it soon ended up in an accident. It got to the point that I warned people. One day, as if on schedule, a woman confirmed that she had been in an accident. But she cheerfully added: “Think of how bad it would have been if you hadn’t blessed the car!”

Recently I had to fly from the US Navy base in Jacksonville, Florida, to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There were problems with the plane that caused serious delays. A fellow passenger in a group I was standing with asked wryly if I would bless the plane so that we could get going. I told them my history of blessing vehicles, whereupon they regarded me with a measure of pensive respect. But I did bless that plane as we headed across the tarmac for our long-delayed flight. On its stormy return flight to Jacksonville, that same aircraft – carrying my chaplain friend whom I was replacing – went off the runway and into a river, just missing the landing lights and a pier. Injuries were minimal. Officials called it “miraculous”.

Ask the priest for his blessing. Use the gifts God gives you through Holy Mother Church.