Cruising With the Saints

Through decades’ worth of trips, the saints after whom our cars were named — Jacinta, Francisco and Thomas More — have kept our family safe on the road.

‘Blessed Mother Blue’ Toyota
‘Blessed Mother Blue’ Toyota (photo: PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay/CC0)

“Those who dwell in heaven…do not cease to intercede with the Father for us.” (CCC 956)

When I first met my husband Mike, he owned a little Toyota. Because the car was “Blessed Mother blue,” Mike had named it Jacinta after St. Jacinta Marto of Fatima. It was Jacinta that Mike drove through rough Bronx neighborhoods to pick me up for our first date, and three years later, to bring me to the hospital where our daughter Grace was born. When Mike, Grace, and I moved to Pennsylvania, Jacinta became the family car. I drove Jacinta to the grocery store, first with Grace in the back seat, and then with Grace and brother Ben in the back seat, and then with Grace, Ben and baby Clare in the back seat, and then … we needed a bigger vehicle. 

All I knew about cars was that they were great for “snooze cruises,” that is, afternoon drives that would get nap-resistant toddlers to sleep. So it fell to Mike to buy our next car. He chose a seven-passenger van and named it Francisco after St. Jacinta’s brother, St. Francisco Marto. 

Francisco took Jacinta’s place in the garage, which was used in those days to … wait for it … house our car. That was before the garage was stuffed to the joists with paraphernalia of a non-automotive nature, including a crusty old aquarium, equipment for seven different extreme sports, and a pink suede wing chair that my mother inexplicably expected us to put in our living room. Since the garage was attached to our house, the kids thought of it as a giant playroom, and the car that it housed as a giant plaything. At various times, Francisco served as a fairy-tale cottage, a space base, an enemy camp and a dining hall on wheels. Sometimes I even drove it.

Francisco was mistreated, er, loved by our family for almost 10 years. His kitten gray interior became a distinctive snow leopard mottle. His tape deck, which had provided audio entertainment on long car rides, eventually fell to an imaginative toddler who, seeing its potential as a coin bank, forced a penny into the deepest recesses of its tape slot. Occasionally, Francisco’s ventilation system was turned on full blast and used to convey notes from the back seat to the front. The system was eventually broken by a blockage comprised of unconveyed bits of paper bearing messages like, “You smell like hot dog water.” 

When we were expecting our sixth child, Francisco was retired with honors, and replaced by a colossal 15-passenger van. The van was blood red, so Mike named it Thomas after the martyr St. Thomas More, who had been condemned to death in a court of law. It was a suitable name for a car that was a trial to drive. The kids took a shine to our gargantu-van, as did everyone else who didn’t have to drive the thing. Even the township police came to recognize the endearingly unwieldy Thomas, and that was before a certain unfortunate incident involving a stop sign.

But throughout decades’ worth of short, long and in-between car trips, the saints after whom our cars were named — Jacinta, Francisco and Thomas — kept our family safe on the road. The Church teaches that the saints “constantly care for those whom they have left on earth,”and that we “can and should ask them to intercede for us” (CCC 2683).

Besides invoking the saint to whom you have especially entrusted your car, consider asking your parish priest to recite this “Blessing of an Automobile.”

“Their intercession is their most exalted service to God's plan.” (CCC 2683)