Safety on Land and Sea: The Auto League, Mariner’s Crucifix, and St. Christopher

1 Jun


Before beginning a journey, many pray for safe travel. Religious articles such as rosaries, medals, and small statues have been used to remind individuals to make safety a priority as they explore.

In 1955, Father Gregory Bezy, SCJ, established the Sacred Heart Auto League because there was a growing awareness and fear of traffic fatalities in the United States. Through the Sacred Heart Auto League, Fr. Bezy distributed small statues of the Sacred Heart to be placed on car dashboards to encourage “prayerful and careful” driving.

Car Rosary

Rosary collectors and travelers often drape a rosary on a car’s rearview mirror. While some use a traditional five decade rosary, others purchase rosaries designed for such use. Car rosaries often open with a clasp similar to those found on necklaces. The clasp enables the owner to drape the rosary more easily on the rearview mirror.
Clasp of a Car Rosary

Car rosaries open so that they can be placed on a rearview mirror.

Car rosaries open so that they can be placed on a rearview mirror.

Mariner's Crucifix

Before 300 A.D., an anchor was sometimes used as a symbol of the Christian faith. This association comes from the biblical reference of Hebrews 6:19: We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. The crucifix pictured above has been called the Mariner’s Crucifix as well as the Sailor’s Crucifix. Some refer to it as St. Clement’s Cross in memory of the saint’s death at sea.
Circa 100 A.D., the Emperor Trajan sent Pope Clement into exile in the Crimea. Rather than languish in prison, Pope Clement used the opportunity to convert residents of the Crimea to Catholicism. Upon hearing this, the emperor ordered soldiers to bound St. Clement to an anchor and drown him at sea so that his body would never be found by the recent converts to Catholicism. After the drowning, however, the seas parted to reveal the body. Pope Clement was honored and given a Christian burial.

Christians use the Mariner’s Crucifix ( St. Clement’s Cross) as a reminder to pray for safety at sea.

St. Christopher Medal
St. Christopher has been known as the patron saint of travelers. According to legend, a very strong man named Offero stood by a river and carried travelers across the water. One day he picked up a little boy, put him on his shoulders, and began walking. With each step, the child became heavier. When they finally crossed the river, the child revealed himself to be Jesus Christ. The increased weight reflected Christ’s carrying of the world’s burdens. From that day, Offero’s name was changed to Christopher which means “Christ bearer”.

St. Christopher medals sometimes contain travel images.

The gold St. Christopher medal shown has an image of St. Christopher on the front and travel images on the reverse. There are pictures of an airplane, automobile, ship, and train on the reverse and the words, “ON LAND – ON SEA

The front of the medal shows St. Christopher carrying the Christ Child across the river.

Because St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers, a car is shown on the reverse of the medal.

St. Christopher medals have often been seen on car rosaries and dashboard ornaments. While most drivers purchase their own medals and add them to their cars, there was one car that included a St. Christopher medal as standard equipment.

The Wasp automobile was manufactured by the Hudson Company ( later the American Motors Corporation) from 1952 to 1956. Each car could be made to the buyer’s specifications with one exception. There was a St. Christopher medal on the dashboard of every car. The auto manufacturer, Karl Martin, was the designer and manufacturer of bronze St. Christopher Medals for Army and Navy personnel in World War I and he placed his surplus medals in the cars. In addition, Mr. Martin was a religious man who always placed a medal in the cars he drove and he believed that all other car owners should do the same. The Wasp is believed to be the only American made car to include a factory-issued St. Christopher medal

The auto visor clip shown above has images of St. Christopher and St. Pio.
St. Padre Pio was canonized by Pope John Paul II on June 16, 2002.

Religious articles such as those produced by the Sacred Heart Auto League and the St. Christopher medals placed on dashboards remind everyone to proceed with prayer and care.

To learn more about unique religious articles, read The Rosary Collector’s Guide by Gloria Brady Hoffner and Helen Hoffner. This 152 page hardcover book has 240 color photographs of unusual rosaries, crosses, crucifixes, and center medals. Published by Schiffer Publishing, The Rosary Collector’s Guide is available on, Barnes and, and the Catholic Faith Store Online.
The authors are often able to bring their collection of religious articles to show to church groups, school groups, and community organizations. To arrange a presentation or to ask a question about rosaries, contact Gloria Brady Hoffner and Helen Hoffner at


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