The following event took place in 1997…
Rain, rain and more rain. Not exactly how we had wanted to start our family outing, but seven people entertaining hopes of a few rides at a theme park, are rarely put off by a spring shower. Two adults, five children, a cooler full of fried chicken and potato salad and we’re off! The leaden sky didn’t dampen our spirits…we had even packed swim suits to use at the local water park. My mother and father had made arrangements to meet us at the park and the children were simply giddy at the thought of a day with the grandparents and all of those exciting rides (little did they know how exciting their “ride” was about to become). Traffic outside of the city had begun to pick up, and knowing how much my mother worries, I began to earnestly pray that we would not be too delayed. Fifteen minutes away from the park traffic came to a stand still. We sat patiently, waiting our turn to proceed. The car in front began to move forward, but our car remained surprisingly motionless. “Ummm, honey? Did you notice the cars moving forward?” I said to my dear husband. “Yes, dear I did” he solemnly replied. “I’m accelerating, but the car is not moving. I believe we have just lost the transmission.” Panic!! We were 150 miles from home, in the middle of traffic, it was raining AND we had five children with us. The cars behind us began “encouraging” us to move along. Horns blowing, and impatient shouts added to the feeling of chaos that was building inside the van as the children became aware that something was wrong. I began to beseech heaven – “Dear God, send us an angel!” I had actually spoke these words out loud. Within moments, a patrol car crested the hill and was approaching us. “Oh thank you dear Lord!” the chorus rang out in the vehicle, right up to the point that the officer simply drove past us, in spite of the fact that we were obviously stuck. “Please, dear Jesus, STOP HIM!” I cried. As if on cue, the officer came to an immediate stop a couple hundred yards past us. He sat for a few moments, then put his car in reverse and backed up until his window was parallel with the driver’s window of our van. Clad in a baseball cap and sweats, he was obviously off-duty. “Car trouble?” he asked, rather reluctantly. “Yes, sir,” said my husband, “I’ve tried to put it in drive and neutral, but nothing works”. The officer looked extremely troubled. It was, after all, his day off and now he was confronted by a messy traffic situation and a family that didn’t have enough money to have a vehicle towed, not to mention the transportation logistics of getting such a large family back to their home, more than 2 ½ hours away. He took a deep breath and said, “OK…here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to help you push your vehicle up into this driveway (it was a horse farm and riding stable facility) and I’ll make sure the owners know that you will be back for it as soon as possible. Do you know anyone around here? Is there any place that you can go?” The unfortunate answer to both of these questions was “No”. Once again the officer looked very distressed. He thought for a moment and then said, “Alright…I have an idea. It’ll be a really tight squeeze but I need all of you to get into my patrol car.” We did not question him, feeling that perhaps he was going to take us to the police station where we could make the necessary phone calls to sort out this situation.
Three adults and five children squeezed into a patrol car that was meant to accommodate four people at the most. I sat upon my husband’s lap, and each of the larger children held a smaller child upon their laps…it was quite a sight! As we were thanking the officer for his assistance, my husband asked him “where are we going?” The officer replied, “I’m taking you to my house. I’m not sure just what we are going to do, but I can’t leave you here in the rain to figure this out. It’s not far, just a couple more miles.” A sense of panic entered my heart and I asked, “Sir, are you married?” “Why, yes I am” he replied. “Well, then, umm, would you please call your wife and let her know that you are bringing seven very wet people over this morning…I’m sure she would probably appreciate the advance warning!” “No need,” he said, “she’ll be fine with it”. My heart sank. I could not imagine what kind of incredible woman, on a Saturday morning, could be confronted with seven strangers unexpectedly, and maintain her sanity.
We approached his home, a lovely two story house set upon the most beautiful acreage, with a pond in view and several toys in the yard. Ah…children! That was good news, as we had five children with us. As we entered through the garage and into the kitchen, we received the surprised stare of an older lady who was sitting in her robe drinking coffee and reading the paper…obviously not the wife. “This is my mother,” our host pronounced. I stumbled all over myself between introductions and apologies for the intrusion; but she was only gracious, if somewhat surprised. We followed our host into a large family room, where a beautiful young woman (in her pajamas) was cuddled up on the couch with two little boys watching cartoons. The look upon her face as she observed our bedraggled family was simply priceless! Once again, hasty introductions and apologies were made, but she recovered beautifully and offers of hospitality and assistance were immediately made. The children had found new playmates and soon were invited to the playroom…let the fun begin!
As we sat down in the family room with the officer and his wife, he began to explain to her how all of this had come about. “I had actually noticed that the vehicle was disabled before I had reached it. My first instinct was to drive by and call another on duty officer for assistance. As I passed by them, I was seized with a strong inclination to stop. So I did. As I sat there, I tried to think of ways to get out of it, but felt very strongly that I needed to help them.” I spoke up, “You appeared over the top of the hill the very moment I asked God to send us an angel! Then you passed by and I begged God to make you stop…and you did! Thank you so much for listening, we begged God for an angel and we got you!” All the talk about prayer, God and angels led to the revelation that our host and hostess were also Catholic! The rest of the day was spent with so much joy. We shared our faith, parenting stories and the officer’s wife asked more than a few questions about homeschooling. Our concerns that we were disturbing their peaceful home were quickly assuaged when we were invited to stay until my mother-in-law arrived to transport us back home. Meanwhile, we shared our fried chicken and potato salad, and the officer and his wife actually offered us the use of their mini-van to go to the park. The rain, however, had not abated, and though we didn’t accept the offer of their vehicle, we did accept the officer’s offer to locate my parents at the park and let them know what had happened so they would not worry.
What a day! Holy Scripture cautions us about the times that we may be “entertaining angels unaware.” Never would I have believed that our entire family would be entertained by angels themselves! Deo Gratias!