Catholic to the Max

Late last summer during the height of the COVID pandemic, my daughter and I made a store run for my elderly mother who was doing her best to remain isolated from the general public. We were driving in my 20 year old Buick. It had no air conditioning, one back door that would not lock properly, a sagging headliner that had long ago come down and was reattached with a staple gun, and a non-operational cruise control which lulled me into a speeding ticket on route 6 between Fremont and Sandusky just a few months earlier.

We left Target with mom’s store order and proceeded south on Milan Road in pretty heavy traffic when one of my worst nightmares occurred. I tapped the brake pedal as we approached a red light and nothing happened. I pressed harder and I barely slowed. Finally I practically stood up on the brake pedal and the car came to a screeching halt scaring the living daylights out of my daughter in the front passenger seat and the old woman driving in the southbound lane immediately next to me.

I proceeded with slow caution the rest of the way to my mom’s apartment with much less than normal brake sensitivity. Obviously something was wrong and it was unsafe to drive this car without getting a professional to look at it. I managed to cautiously make it back home and counted my blessings that I lived only a ½ mile from my office, church, and our daughter’s school. Due to that close proximity, I was already walking to most of those places when the weather and my schedule/attire cooperated.

The auto mechanic that I usually took the Buick to when it was acting up was literally right around the corner. So I called them and explained my issue and told them that based on my drive home – I would be able to get it over there with my wife running interference ahead of me in the “good” car. The next day I got the bad news that the entire brake lines were shot and the repair estimate was frankly more than I would dream of putting into this car at that point considering all of the other things wrong with it.

I called around and the best offer I could get for it was the scrap metal rate at one of the local salvage yards. I assumed they would be using some of the other parts for salvage, but learned the following week that it was destined for the crusher. This made me a bit sad as it had been my go to transportation for over a decade – after buying it from my parents’ neighbors back home when they got a new car and didn’t have any plans for the old one. Much like I now found myself in 2020, back in 2010 I was in need of replacing my then 15 year old Dodge that had seen better days.

I wasn’t looking to take on a second car payment as my wife drove a relatively new Mazda which was our usual day to day family car. As the nice car, and the wife’s car, the Mazda got the benefits of our single car garage – safe from the weather and the neighborhood kids. With no driveway to speak of, the Buick settled for on-street parking on our busy street. It weathered the tough winters and had its share of dents and dings from neighborhood school bus kids who aren’t always the most respectful of other people’s property. Needless to say, I was not interested in spending a lot of money on a nicer new model car that I could not keep 100% free from these perils.

So we weighed our options and put out feelers. We soon discovered that one of my wife’s co-workers had a serviceable SUV they were looking to unload. The only problem was that they could not sell it until after they were able to go to Wisconsin to pick up and bring home the vehicle they were replacing it with – owned by an ill family member who would no longer be driving. Due to the nature of the family member’s illness and the COVID infection rates – travel from Ohio to Wisconsin was not available for them at the time. So we became a one car family for several months until finally in November I was able to pay for and take over the new second car – a 2007 Mercury Mariner in very good condition.

After much debate, in July of 2020, the State of Ohio finally eliminated the requirement that Ohio registered vehicles display both front and rear license plates. For that reason, when I registered this new vehicle in my name, I only received one license plate to display. I thought that the bulky, black, empty license plate bracket on the front of a white SUV was butt ugly. So I decided to find a suitable decorative plate to put in place of the front plate. I could have chosen a Pittsburgh Steelers logo plate or an OSU Buckeyes logo plate or some other sports or hobby related design, but I opted instead to look for a simple uncluttered ichthys symbol. This is the simple design of two intersecting arcs that resemble a fish – similar to <><. Dating back to the very early church, the ichthys image has always been a common symbol to identify Christian sympathizers and believers.

At first I looked to Amazon to see if I could find a suitable design, but after scrolling through all they had to offer in response to my search – I saw nothing that satisfied my taste. So I instead turned to Google. I don’t recall the exact search phrase I used, but I found a web site called Catholic to the Max which had exactly what I was looking for. As I found my piece, I glanced over the site logo/header which depicted another graphical image of the ichthys fish with the site name superimposed over it. It also had the tagline: “Evangelize Everywhere.” Next to this logo and tagline was an image of a lovely family and a business phone number.

I immediately recognized the area code and exchange of this business as a Steubenville, Ohio telephone number. Then upon further inspection of the family image – I recognized an older version of my high school classmate, Mark! I briefly mentioned Mark a long time ago in the post September 23, 2008 – Search. Mark was one of the leaders of a boys high school retreat I was a part of in 1989. A real pleasant guy in both high school and college, although I probably have not communicated with him in 25+ years. A few years before my mom moved up to Sandusky, she told me about some guy who had moved a business into the old Lincoln School building in Steubenville. She explained he had such a beautiful collection of religious artwork and custom made religious home decor for sale. This was Mark. Mark was also a key figure in bringing the annual life sized nutcracker statues to downtown Steubenville in the Steubenville Nutcracker Village.

Mark is a top notch guy who does great work. So if you need a special item to help you to Evangelize Everywhere, take a look at Catholic to the Max or one of its sister sites where you are sure to find something that fits your needs. I did! And thank you Mark for having my ichthys fish decorative license plate available in Black and Gold [Steelers] colors! 😉

Praise God!!!

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