Vintage cars (and a vintage Jesuit)

Published on 27 Sep 2021
Vintage car at St Beuno's

by Tim McEvoy

On Saturday morning last, the stillness of St Beuno’s was broken by the chugging up the driveway of a procession of classic cars making their unlikely pilgrimage across north Wales. They had decided by prior arrangement to pause and admire the view from the front car park and so we were greeted by the slightly incongruous sight of a row of lovingly restored automobiles and their cheerful owners as they arrived one by one, at precisely timed intervals, slowly turned at the end of the tarmac and parked up in a long line in front of the new entrance.

Observers were struck by the combination of smells of motor oil, gasoline and moth balls as the motorists in their vintage vehicles were met by the sight of a Jesuit in equally vintage attire – Fr Damian Jackson no less, who blessed each car with holy water and chatted to the pilgrims bedecked in his best gown and biretta! This went down very well with the group, who presumably thought this form of dress the most natural thing in the world for a vicar ‘round these parts.

As Fr Damian sometimes likes to say, St Beuno’s can best be understood not as a retreat from life but as a sort of spiritual service station whose purpose is to ‘fill up the tanks’ of those who join us from the busy roads of life. Perhaps this is an apt image to keep in mind at this time of national fuel shortages?

Taking this image a step further, I wonder if in the spirit of finding God in all things we might regard the ever-present buzz of the north Wales Expressway – an unmissable feature of the otherwise bucolic view over the Vale of Clwyd – not just as an unpleasant modern disturbance but as a gift? And the noisy contraptions that constantly run up and down it, not simply as contributors to carbon footprints and climate change – which they undoubtedly are – but also, complexly, as means of grace?

This brief but energetic interlude – that drew a small crowd of staff and retreatants for a time to admire, reminisce and smile – perhaps invites us to ponder such unstraightforward questions: how God can and does turn everything to our good; even messy motorcars.