Of Car Alarms

Happy Easter everyone!  HE. IS. RISEN!

The Novices are amazing.

They are so much more patient than I am.  I mean, truly.

10155138_10152027492846875_5874267704316541549_nSometime before Lent (wow, was it that long ago?), the community held Eucharistic Adoration in our house chapel.  I usually allow the Novices to have this time to themselves, but that evening, I felt called to be part of their prayer time.  Once we exposed the Blessed Sacrament, we heard a car alarm sound.  Imagine us chanting St Thomas Aquinas’ ancient hymn O Salutaris Hostia with a strange harmony of ‘car alarm’ going on just a few hundred feet away.


And so we knelt.  And prayed.  And heard the car alarm.  And then it would stop.


imagesYou could feel the brothers relaxing into the pool of wisdom and consolation of the Holy Spirit, calling them into the abyss of light and compassion. The novices, in their beautiful newer habits, folding their hands underneath their scapulars, looking intently at their God.  One of them with yearning eyes, piercing into the Mystery.  A few of them with heads bowed low, sighing in the contentment of their Savior.  All of them thankful for this time to discuss their day with their God.


Oh, dear God.

And I watched the Novices pray while the alarm was going.


One of them laughed uncontrollably.  Another sat down from his kneeling position, and sighed as he opened his book.  But the majority of them knelt still and calm as they communed with their Jesus.


Eventually, one of the novices, overcome with curiosity, left the chapel to find where the car was.


Eventually, I too excused myself and found where the car alarm was—


–and of course, naturally, because this is how life is for me, the car is just outside Dominican property.  Here is this sedan, on the curb on Pierce Street, just on the other side where the Dominican Property line closes.  I grimaced an unsaintly grimace.  I thought to myself, I wonder if I can convince to Novices to pull the car onto the property just so that we can call the police to tow it away….


Being the priest on call that night I took down the license plate and car model and called the local police precinct.

Now, here is the hilarious part about calling the police.  Their elevator music is straight out of 1976.  Though I barely recognized the music, I was hearing—


–getting in tune with Stayin’ Alive and Brickhouse.  I was imagining a bunch of police officers in A-shirts and Afros, and everyone with a lava lamp on their desk.

Finally, dispatch answered my call.

“Oh yeah,” said the officer, a little annoyed, “we’ve gotten a few calls about that, Padre.  We’ll be sending a unit over there ASAP.  Anything else?”

Said I, “Do you mind if I tow the car onto my property so that I can call a tow truck?”

“Is that an official question or a joke?”

“A joke,” I said.


“I think you know my answer, then.  Goodnight.”

Around ten o’clock, three plus hours after this adventure began, the car disappeared.  I don’t know if the owners came or the police waved their magic clubs, but the honking finally ended.

I’m thankful for the Novices’ rapt attention in prayer.  Sure, they, like any of us, were distracted, annoyed, or whatever.  But they still kept watch.  Jesus, despite the situation, nonetheless called them to spend time at the Altar of Salvation.

Truly, it is amazing.  I don’t need a car alarm to get me to stop praying.  I can listening to myself breathe and would be distracted from prayer.  But here are the youngest of the Order, teaching me yet again what it means to be a contemplative.  Sigh.  One day, perhaps, I’ll get there.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!


Of Car Alarms — 4 Comments

  1. Thanks for the “car alarm” prayers!

    “Just as bread from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread but the Eucharist, made up of two elements, one earthly and one heavenly, so also our bodies, in receiving the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, for they have the hope of resurrection.”

    St. Irenaeus
    Bishop & Martyr

  2. Fabulous tale! Perhaps it was Our Lord, Himself, honking that horn just to see who could maintain his focus. “And when they came to the tomb, the rock was rolled away and it was empty…

  3. Great story. As it happens, I’m reading “No Man is an Island” by Thomas Merton, which is a guide to spiritual life, meditation, etc.

    In Chapter 6 he writes, “What a hopeless thing the spiritual life would be if it could only be lived under ideal conditions. Such conditions have never been within the reach of most men, and were never more inaccessible than in our modern world. Everything in modern city life is calculated to keep man from entering into himself and thinking about spiritual things. Even the best intentions of a spiritual man finds himself exhausted and deadened and debased by the constant noise of machines and loudspeakers, the dead air and glaring lights of offices and shops, the everlasting suggestions of advertising and propanganda.” etc.,etc.

    And this was in the 1960’s before car phones!

    I won’t quote his remedy, but I strongly recommend the book.

    Also, St Dominic’s Book Club will be discussing Merton’s autobiography, “Seven Story Mountain” later this month. All are welcome; see the bulletin for details.

    Finally, if you would like to see a good video on Thomas Merton, check out Robert Barrons’ “WordonFire.org” website.

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