Busted Halo

Paulist seminarian Tom Gibbons reflects on his formation experience and his life as a seminarian right now. Along the way, some questions will be will be answered, and a lot more will come up.

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May 18th, 2010

Finding Parking Spots


The word “saint” is a pretty loaded term in our lexicon.  For many, they conjure up images of those who have reached spiritual heights the rest of us could never hope to attain.  For others, they conjure up images of marble statues, figures ensconced in stony forms that seem to highlight some of the more inflexible aspects of our Catholic tradition.  Of course the most common understanding of the word is the definition of a person who always, always, ALWAYS does the right thing… sort of a holy Dudley Do-Right.  The term even caused modern day “Servant of God” Dorothy Day to remark, “Don’t call me a saint… I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”

I have to confess, even as a lifelong Catholic I could not always admit to understanding the “saint thing” either.  It was not until I was at a conference held a number of years ago that discussed the similarities between culture and faith that I managed to gain a foothold on understanding how they fit into our lives… and why I sometimes struggled with this concept.  Because in our American culture, we tend not to believe in ancestral spirits.  We tend to believe that once people are gone, they are gone.  Those who have gone before us do not hang around, they do not inhabit our lives, giving us direction, guiding us, and helping smooth our paths in this life as a preparation for the next one.

Parking_GarageWhich is a shame, because as I discovered this summer, saints can come in very handy when trying to look for parking spots.

This past summer I was working as a hospital chaplain in New York City.  So one day after work, a future rabbi, a future minister, and a future priest (me) walked into a bar.   Actually the “future minister” was actually a “future Episcopal priest,” but the story sounds better as a joke to simply say a minister.   But I digress… before we walked into that bar, we drove around Greenwich Village for ten minutes looking for a parking spot.  If any of you have ever tried parking a car in Greenwich Village, I don’t recommend it.  After an additional five minutes, I offered my Catholic assistance.

“Mother Cabrini, Mother Cabrini… DON’T BE A MEANY… please find a spot for my machiney.”

Should you ever use this prayer for yourself—no matter what your faith background may be—the “don’t be a meany” part is very important.

In the very next moment we turn the corner and—again, it’s important to point out that this is taking place in car-littered lower Manhattan—lo and behold, there was a spot right in front of the place where we were going.  The two passengers proceeded to thank me for finding the spot.  I replied, “Thank Mother Cabrini!”

The Author : Fr. Tom Gibbons
Since 2009, Tom Gibbons, CSP, has shared insights on faith, pop culture, and seminary life in the Kicking and Screaming blog here at Busted Halo. On May 19, 2012, Tom was ordained a Paulist priest at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York City. He will begin serving St. Peter's Catholic Church in Toronto, Canada beginning in July 2012.
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  • Debbie

    We recently invoked the prayer to Mother Cabrini at a crowded ski resort where they were turning away cars. The entire family began at once, “Mother Cabrini….” and lo and behold, a spot appeared as we turned the corner!

  • Monica

    Did the rabbi and minister convert after? (That would be a funny punchline to the joke.)

  • Jack Liu

    I heard that Italian drivers look to St. Padre Pio for finding parking spots.

  • Paul

    Thank you for the tips. Living in New York City, bringing the car to the city is a luxury!
    Thank you for all the tips.

  • Catriona

    St Anthony is always my favourite Saint for finding things…..including parking spots!

  • Crystal

    Woohoo! Thanks for sharing this, Tom! You can always visit the Mother Cabrini Shrine up on 190th (off the A train), and literally pay her a visit! Among the miracles of parking spaces, she is also the Patronness of Immigrants. :)

  • Sean

    I had just read this article last week and this weekend was going to a wine tasting. I tried the “Hail Mary, full of grace: help me find a parking space.” and sure enough, a spot opened up just as I was turning the corner! Strengthened my faith a bit more.

  • Audrey

    Here’s another “Little Flower, Little Flower, please give me some of that parking power!” Hat tip to Father James Martin, SJ, the author of My Life with the Saints…

  • Marie

    I always say, “Hail Mary, full of grace: help me find a parking space.” It works. I’ve never heard of the Mother Cabrini but I’ll give that one a whirl, too.

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