The Carpenter’s Car

by Martin McDonald

How do we know if God has answered our prayers through the intercession of a particular saint? Do all saints give a sign like the roses often attributed to St Thérèse of Lisieux? Can a heavenly intercessor leave his or her name like an artist signs a painting?

We were expecting our fourth child in July and thus we needed a bigger car, a minivan to be precise. During the year of St Joseph and particularly during the month of St Joseph (March), we asked him to find us not just any car but one that suits our needs, preferences, and budget. Although he never owned or drove a car, he knows a lot about the challenges and joys of traveling with a family.

We decided to wait until after the octave of Easter to buy, but began looking at our options in March. To get a decent used minivan, we would need to spend at least $10,000 (Canadian) and depending on the year, mileage, and condition of the vehicle could spend anywhere up to $20,000. So we set ourselves an ideal limit.

Our preference was to find a private sale (versus buying from a dealer) and thus being able to trust the owner was one of the most important boxes for us to tick.

We had a list of non-negotiable requirements. For instance, we would only buy a car that was being sold with a Safety Standards certificate, which is required to license a vehicle in Ontario. This makes the process so much easier for the buyer and it shows that the seller is confident in the reliability and condition of their car.

We had a list of things that we would ideally like, including middle and rear stow and go seats and tinted windows. For a family travelling in the vast terrain of Canada, a car is like a second home and thus things like tinted windows would give us more privacy and make travelling more comfortable.

We also had a list of non-essential bonus features, such as leather seats, which don’t stain when children drop their pizza slice.

I must have viewed hundreds of cars online, trying to find that needle in a haystack. I made a number of enquiries and compiled a shortlist, but nothing stood out. After taking a break over the Easter octave, I checked to see if any new advertisements had been posted, but nothing caught my eye.

Then I came across an ad I had already viewed before Easter but had dismissed due to the mileage being at the higher end of our preferred range.

This time, however, I was drawn to the fact that the car was being sold in a town that we are familiar with and that’s not too far away. The cars on our shortlist required driving into a large city and/or a much further distance. Oh, and the color was red; my wife has always wanted a red car.

I emailed the owners a few questions and they replied promptly. Suddenly we were looking at a car that was ticking all of our boxes, even the bonus features, and so we arranged a viewing the same day.

Immediately it became clear that the owners were trustworthy and that they cared about their car, which they had owned since it was new and which was in mint condition. We agreed to buy, arranged payment, and told them we would return a week later to exchange the car.

The owners’ attention to detail was first-class and they cared for us, who were complete strangers to them, as much as they had cared for their car.

One example among many is that on the morning before driving to exchange the car, I emailed the owners to make sure that we were all square on the payment. They said yes and that they had decided to lower the price and would be giving us back a few hundred dollars.

Because of this kind gesture, our grand total (including taxes, registration, and winter tires) was $22 below what we could afford to pay—leaving enough money to buy a celebratory pizza, which Jemma (our youngest) was welcome to drop on our black leather seats!

The whole process could not have gone smoother. Even COVID restrictions didn’t interfere with this “essential” endeavour.

The car is a joy to drive. On our maiden voyage, Janie (our eldest) exclaimed, “It feels like we’re flying!”

And it is so spacious. Baby number four’s seat was officially reserved well in advance!

When we arrived home, we prayed the litany to St Joseph in thanksgiving. We knew that he had led us to this car and to the owners and that he was guiding and protecting us every step of the way.

In case there was any doubt in our minds (or even in your mind), this “Pillar of Families,” this outstanding gentleman, left his signature behind.

After we had prayed the litany, Jacinta (our second daughter) asked, “What were the owners’ names again?” I reminded her what their first names are and then it hit me. Their surname is Carpenter!

The McDonald family are our friends and neighbors. A week before we went to press, their baby was born—a girl, Jorgiana.