A bumper sticker
June 4, 2008
A bumper sticker, seen today in New Jersey:
Need a Weapon?
Pray the Rosary.
What is unclear to me is whether the owner of this car sees the rosary to be a weapon to be directed against anger or a weapon to be directed against the object of one’s anger. That is to say, was this driver advising me to pray the rosary so that I might more effectively get back at my enemies by enlisting, in my support, the Mother of God? Or was he or she telling me that “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20), and that I need, accordingly, to beseech the Mother of God to remove from my soul this dangerous and destructive passion?
I did not have an opportunity to ask the driver of this car, since it turned onto an exit and headed south on Interstate 287.
Perhaps, because the Ave Maria, of which the rosary is largely composed, beseeches the Mother of God to “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death,” the driver of this car was saying that, if I pray this prayer, I will get a two-fold cure of anger: on the one hand, the objective situation about which I am angry will be referred, through Mary, to the God of justice, who, whether by exacting vengeance upon the wicked or by bringing them to repentance, will one way or another rectify the situation about which I am aggrieved; on the other hand, by acknowledging that sin is a universal condition in which I too share, I remove my own grounds for feeling self-righteous and vindictive against my personal or political enemies. As St. Paul writes: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
I will assume that some such thing is the bumper sticker’s intended message.
A postscript. As I was exiting the parking lot in which I wrote down these notes, I heard, and then saw, on the train tracks below, some men scuffling. I drove slowly by the scene; looking back, I saw two young men walking away towards the rail yard; a Hispanic man stood yelling at them. I drove backwards and parked; the man walked over. I offered him the use of my cellphone, so he could call the police. He showed me his hand, which had a cut, and asked if I saw anything on his face; one side of it did look a little puffy, but no cuts. He returned the phone, and said, in broken English, that calling the police was not an option, which I took to mean that he was probably in the country illegally. He shook my hand, and I drove away.
Perhaps that man, or someone close to him, will pray the rosary this night. And who is to say what will happen, in God’s providence, to the thugs who beat him up, or to the country which cynically employs illegal workers as a way of avoiding paying minimum wage and benefits to the people who do its menial labor?