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10-pope

The many roads that lead to Christ can be both funny and fulfilling

Fr Jamie McMorrin gives an insight into the curiosities of priestly life, including shuttling a saint’s statue through a McDonald’s drive-thru.

Over the weekend, feeling like a nervous parent sending a slightly timid child off to a sports competition or a difficult exam, I put my car into the garage for its annual MOT, silently wishing it luck and assuring it that I would still love it, no matter the judgement handed down by the mechanics. It passed, thank goodness.

I’ve not been driving for very long. After an unsuccessful attempt to pass my driving test at 17, I put off having another go for 10 years and eventually passed the summer before my diaconate ordination.

It was a minor miracle, which I attribute to the intercession of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, who was beatified that same summer, and whose prayer card I keep in the driver’s door as a reminder.

Patience

Credit should also go to my driving instructor father, who, in the weeks running up to the test, also lived out the virtue of cheerful patience to a heroic degree, and who maintained his beatific calm as I crunched the gears, forgot to indicate and used language unbefitting a seminarian after stalling the car three times in a row at a busy roundabout.

I’m slightly better now, you’ll be relieved to know. But I do still pray while driving: not so much the frantic ‘save me, Jesus!’ petitions of the driving lesson days, but by using the time stuck in city centre traffic or on the long motorway drives to meetings to catch up on my prayers.

I have a single-decade Rosary hanging from the indicator stick and a whole host of edifying audiobooks and theology podcasts on my phone which serve as spiritual reading (spiritual listening?) on the move.

Often, if I’m visiting the sick, I have the Blessed Sacrament in my breast pocket: on those journeys my car is, literally, an adoration chapel, in which, in the midst of a busy day, I am alone and in silence with the Eucharistic Lord.

Important passenger

While the Blessed Sacrament is the most important passenger I’ve ever had, the car is also occasionally called upon to give our parish Sister a lift back to the convent on rainy days, to ferry the children to youth meetings, and, once, to give the archbishop a lift to his next engagement, hoping on that occasion that he wouldn’t notice the sweetie papers and smelly hill-walking boots in the back.

Last month, together with one of our seminarians, I had to collect a life-sized statue of St Thérèse of Lisieux from a neighbouring parish. There was something rather undignified about having her sprawled across the back seats, wrapped in an old blanket.

To make matters worse, our next stop was the McDonald’s drive-through, and I was slightly worried that the server would see her feet poking out of the end of the sheet and think that we were disposing of a body: I briefly considered strapping her into the passenger seat in the front, but decided on reflection that this would probably be even more unnerving.

Keeping fit

When not transporting statues and archbishops, though, I actually prefer to leave the car at home and get on my trusty bicycle. It’s a great way to keep fit, makes finding parking space in the city centre a good deal easier and wins me kudos with the climate change lobby.

I did it in Rome for many years, and lived to tell the tale. The buses and taxi drivers of Edinburgh, who change lanes at a moment’s notice, have nothing on their Italian equivalents: they don’t scare me one bit.

So far, I’ve managed to arrive at my destination, whether to say Mass in our other church, to visit the housebound or to attend a meeting at the archdiocesan offices, slightly hot and sweaty but always in one piece.

But the best way to get around the parish, if only I had the time, would be on foot. There’s no better way to get to know the neighbourhoods, and parishioners are always delighted to bump into you out on your rounds.

Modern means

It’s a great witness to the presence of the Church in a place: not in the sealed-off bubble of a car, nor zooming past on a bike aiming for a ‘personal record time,’ but walking among the people, available and accessible to them.

The Prophet Isaiah proclaimed, ‘how lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’

The Prophet didn’t foresee Toyota cars and bikes with titanium frames. But these are, nonetheless, among the vehicles by which the Gospel of salvation is carried to the people of parishes throughout Scotland, who joyfully welcome Him, however he arrives.

The Lord once rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey: now he travels by more modern means. May his accompaniment keep us all safe on the roads, and guide our feet —and our wheels—along the paths of his holy will.

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