It was late Friday afternoon, much too late to be leaving for New Hampshire on a trip that would take us four and a half hours, but most likely five, depending on the number of times we’d have to stop for the dog ... or me.
Interstate 91 was already heavy with cars heading north for a weekend of skiing. I left work early, thinking I’d have a clear shot through Massachusetts, Vermont and then New Hampshire, but I was wrong. Still miles from Springfield, we were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
“What the heck is holding us up?” I grumbled to my wife.
“There must be an accident,” she said.
The middle lane was barely moving, and everyone was frantically trying to pass an old Cadillac that was crawling along. I could feel my blood pressure rising and tension tightening my stomach. I finally made my move and pulled out to pass.
“Who’s driving 40-miles-an-hour?”
When I got beside the Cadillac, I was about to press on the horn, roll down the window and deliver a few choice words ... until I saw a bumper sticker on the car that said, “Help America — Pray the Rosary.” And dangling from the rearview mirror were rosary beads. I felt like a hot-headed fool. In that moment, I said a silent Hail Mary for the older woman driver, who was clearly anxious as speeding motorists raced past.
Our driving styles differed, but we were kindred spirits. I have the same bumper sticker on the back of my SUV, along with rosary beads hanging from the rearview mirror. I realize now you can’t judge someone by her driving abilities — and I’m sure Jesus doesn’t.
I’m also sure the bumper sticker on my car leaves people puzzled. When they see me weaving in and out at rush hour, they probably snicker, “Pray the rosary? Help America? ... Help yourself, buddy!” OK, I confess that I have occasional problems with patience, and the more appropriate bumper sticker might be the one that says, “No Jesus, no peace.”
Nevertheless, I’m proud of my bumper sticker because it’s a way to give witness. As Catholics, we’re called upon to give witness in ways large and small. I’m inspired by the hope that someone somewhere will read the bumper sticker and realize that America can only be saved by prayer — not by politicians, the media, celebrities or another law.
At work, I have a menagerie of religious statues on my computer station, including St. Joseph, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of Guadalupe and a bobblehead of Pope Francis. In case of spiritual emergency, there’s also a bottle of holy water from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Perhaps that’s excessive, but I believe in pushing the limits.
My co-workers may look at me suspiciously and think I’m a religious fanatic who wants to impose his views on them. But you never know how or when you’ll plant the seed in another person who sees your cross necklace, prayer book or rosary beads. Those seemingly inconsequential things can have a profound effect that we’re unaware of.
While we still have religious freedom of expression in America, we should take advantage of it, because there’s an aggressive and growing movement of people who would deny that right to Catholics.
Moreover, we shouldn’t be afraid to let people know we’re believers, whether it’s on the job, at the dinner table or on the ski slopes. Evangelizing can be doing something as simple as saying, “God bless you” or telling people in distress that you’ll pray for them.
We’re all called to evangelize, and when you open yourself up to Christ’s grace and he enlists you as a worker in the vineyard, he’ll use you countless times during the day to plant the seed in people he wants to reach. You may not see the fruits of your labors until the next life, but you can be sure the results will defy your expectations.
So take advantage of every opportunity to bring Christ to people at work, at home ... and in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
JOE PISANI of Orange is a writer whose work has appeared in Catholic publications nationwide. He and his wife Sandy have four daughters.