Saturday, June 04, 2005

Frances of Rome rides shotgun

I got my driver's license the day before I left college. I barely used it until a few months after I got married, when my job required me to have a car. Bede, however, did not have a license at all, but I said that I would not give birth until he passed his driving test. Bede got his license three weeks before Lucia was born.

In a bizarre twist-of-fate involving a cross-country trip followed by transmission trouble, Ulric, my younger brother, now often relies on Bede and me for rides. As a toddler, Ulric would sit on Aunt Brigid's lap and steer the wheel. (This happened in the days before car-seats were popular. Grown-ups put their babies in cardboard boxes to keep them from sliding all over the car-seats, and would stick out their arms to block their children from hurtling forward during sudden stops.) By the time I was in grad school, Ulric was giving me rides because I was too chicken to drive on the Beltway, or anywhere else for that matter.

Now, in addition to everyone else, Bede and I are probably indebted to Frances of Rome, the patron saint of motorists. France of Rome had a guardian angel who would light her path at night to keep her safe. Frances of Rome wasn't driving a car, but if she had been, she probably would have had a glow-in-the-dark Mary statue on the dashboard. I have no such icon, but you can only imagine how enraged I was when vandals broke into the car last December and stole my matchbox travel shrine. I have since replaced it. Inside the box is a little scrap of paper with this prayer:

"Our Lady of the Highway, be with us on our journey, for all your ways are beautiful and all your paths are peace. O God who with unspeakable providence does rule and govern the world, grant unto us, your servants, through the intercession of our watchful mother Mary, to be protected from all danger and brought safely to the end of our journey. Amen."


Street shrines often provided the only light for roads at night in the eras before electricity.

1 comment:

galetea said...

Everyone who travels the Beltway should be required by law to have shrines in their cars. It has been a long time since I was required to make a trip down it, but I came out the other side white-knuckled every time I did.