The Saints Of Motoring

The traditional saint invoked to deal with cars has long been St.Christopher, the patron saint of travelers and traveling. There were even relatively popular dashboard medals for the guy. But I just found out that as part of Vatican II in 1969 (my Vatican guy's not really on the ball) St.Christopher's feast day was revoked, and he's not really so big in the saint community anymore. Largely because no one thinks he was real.

So motorists may want to start looking for divine representation elsewhere. We're here to help.

I'm not Catholic, but I always liked the idea of all of those saints, each with a specific activity or object or occupation to look over. It made the normally very vague and spiritual concepts of divinity seem approachably bureaucratic. I mean, it seems crazy to bother The Big Man with my pleas to help me find my 10mm wrench (I'm sure he's busy making Higgs Bosons and appearing in water stains), but a quick request to St.Anthony? That's no problem — it's the man's job.

Luckily, there's many, many saints, and a surprising number of them traffic in cars and driving-related work. Even luckier is that I'm friends with Colin Dickey, a bona fide saint expert and the author of the terrific book Afterlives of the Saints. Colin was nice enough to do a bunch of research for me, and came up with this great list of automotive-oriented saints, so all us car people can know who's extension to pray to when the time arises.

Here's what Colin found:

Elijah the Prophet
Known as the patron saint of vehicles and car drivers because he was taken to heaven on a flaming chariot. Which is badass, even if not exactly the sort of thing you want to emulate in your car. (This guy also gets invited around a lot by Jews around Passover. Dude never RSVPs.)

Frances of Rome
"Legend says that when she went abroad at night, her guardian angel went before her, lighting the road with a headlight-like lantern, keeping her safe in her travels." During the Blessing of the Cars, it's often either Frances of Rome or Elijah the Prophet who're invoked.

Sebastian of Aparicio
The patron of roads and motorbikes. In the 1500s he built a 466 mile road from Mexico City to Zapatecas, in the process getting rich as hell. Late in life, he married not one but two extremely young virgins—not at the same time; the first died, he married the second, and when she died, and he was like 90, he became a Franciscan and gave away all his money.

Saint Richard
Patron of NASCAR. This explanation seems dubious as hell, but it's the best I could find. "Richard's story took place long ago. His family earned its living by farming and after his father died, it was little "Richie" who would drive the family farm cart to market. It is said he was an excellent driver and especially adept at getting the family cart where it needed to go with incredible speed. This helped his family survive and prosper during harvest time. Eventually, Richard's cart racing days came to an end and he enrolled at Oxford University where he once again excelled, only this time academically!"

Also patron of cab drivers.

Otto of Bamberg
Otto is the Patron of Parking. There's very little evidence to confirm why exactly Otto is the patron saint of parking. He's also known as the Father of Monks, but I'm having trouble equating that with parking. He converted 20,000 pagans from Poland to Christianity? Hm. This one's tricky.

Columbanus of Bobbio
Patron saint of motorcyclists. Bobbio was a 6th century Irish saint, and other than the fact that he traveled (apparently to get away from the ladies who were all over him), not sure why he gets motorcyclists. Though he did apparently tame a bear with nothing but his charm, which is pretty cool I guess, in that way that riding a motorcycle is pretty cool.

Catherine of Alexandria
Patron of Mechanics. Catherine was tortured on a breaking wheel (now known as a Catherine Wheel)—which, incidentally, didn't kill her, so she had to be beheaded. But since she was often painted and drawn with this bigass wooden wheel with her, people assumed that she was a carter or a mechanic or a tinkerer or something like that. So her mode of death became instead her primary occupation, and mechanics took her as their patron.