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SPECIAL: Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road

6/20/2007 - 5:55 AM PST

(Page 8 of 18)

drivers have a full and precise knowledge of the Highway Code. Indeed, those who use the roads should know the regulations and take them into account. Furthermore, drivers are obliged to demonstrate that they are in a suitable physical and psychological condition. If they are inebriated, they should never get behind the wheel of a car nor be authorised to do so. Like anyone else, they are obliged to be sober: in fact, alcohol creates a state of euphoria and reduces mental capacity to the extent of giving rise to fatal accidents"[21].

55. In respecting justice, "road users should provide reparations for any damage caused to others. If, according to their conscience, they are responsible for such damage, they should do their best until the victim, or close relatives, have been adequately compensated. If the harm is produced completely unintentionally, they should still feel obliged, in accordance with their conscience, to compensate the victim in compliance with the law, and in case of dispute and trial, they should respect the sentence"[22].

56. Furthermore, we should also encourage the families of victims to forgive their aggressors, as a sign, albeit difficult, of human and Christian maturity. In this process of forgiveness, it is useful, even necessary, to have spiritual support from a chaplain or pastoral agent and to celebrate an appropriate "Day of Pardon"[23].

The virtue of Hope

57. Hope is another virtue that should characterise drivers and travellers. Indeed, whoever undertakes a journey always sets out with the hope of arriving safely at their destination to carry out business, enjoy the countryside, visit famous or nostalgic places or return to the embrace of loved ones. For believers, the reason for such hope, whilst taking account of the problems and dangers of the road, lies in the certainty that, in our journey towards a goal, God accompanies us and keeps us from danger. Due to God's company, and thanks to the collaboration of other people, we reach our destination.

58. Whilst God is the rock of Christian hope, Catholic devotion has found many intercessors before Him, His and our true friends, the Angels and Saints of God, to whom we entrust ourselves to surpass the dangers of the journey, by divine grace. We recall Saint Christopher (Christ's Bearer), the presence of the Guardian Angel, and the Archangel Raphael who accompanied Tobias (Tobias 5:1 ff.), whom the Church regards as the protector of travellers. Also significant are the titles given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in relation to travelling. Indeed, we invoke her as the Madonna of the Way, the Pilgrim Virgin, icon of the migrant woman[24].

59. Resorting to our Heavenly Intercessors should not make us forget the importance of the sign of the cross, to be made before setting out on a journey. With this sign we put ourselves directly under the protection of the Holy Trinity. Indeed, this directs us above all to the Father, as origin and destination. In this regard, we recall the words of the psalm: "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways" (Psalms 91 [90]:11).

The sign of the cross thus entrusts us to our guide, Jesus Christ (cf. John 8:12). The Emmaus encounter (cf. Luke 24:13-35) reassures us that the Lord meets everyone along the road, lodges in the houses of those who invite him, travels with us and sits beside us.

Finally, the sign of the cross takes us back to "the Holy Spirit, who is Lord and gives Life"[25]. To those who call on him, he illuminates the mind and grants the gift of prudence to reach one's destination. This is confirmed by the hymn, Veni Creator: "Ductore sic te praevio, vitemus omne noxium" ("If you are the one who guides us, we will avoid anything that might harm us").

60. During a journey it is also beneficial to pray vocally, especially taking turns with our fellow travellers in reciting the prayers, as when reciting the Rosary[26] which, due to its rhythm and gentle repetition, does not distract the driver's attention. This will help to feel immersed in the presence of God, to stay under his protection, and may also give rise to a desire for communal or liturgical celebration, if possible at "spiritually strategic" points along the road or railway (shrines, churches and chapels, including mobile ones).

Drivers' "Ten Commandments"

61. In any case, with the request for motorists to exercise virtue, we have drawn up a special "decalogue" for them, in analogy with the Lord's Ten Commandments. These are stated here below, as indications, considering that they may also be formulated differently.

I. You shall not kill.

II. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.

III. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.

IV. Be charitable and help your ...

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