Rituals for the Blessing of Vehicles

By definition, a blessing is “a sacramental. It is an act, when performed by a duly qualified minister, in the name and by the authority of the Church, praying that God may look with favour on certain people and things, or dedicating them to religious service.1

At Saint Joseph’s Oratory, the blessing of vehicles is not a new practice and likely goes back to the days when the Oratory was just a chapel. There isn’t much information on the subject, because it’s a fairly normal occurrence at a shrine. But by digging a little, we’re able to find some interesting traces.

On May 15, 1949, the Club des Bicyclistes de Montréal came to have their bicycles blessed2; an event that would turn into a tradition because in 1956, it became an annual blessing. That year, as evidenced by photos, motorcyclists were also invited, making it a gathering of several hundred cyclists.3

Bénédiction des cyclistes le 13 mai 1956
Bénédiction des cyclistes, le 13 mai 1956

Fig. 1 and 2 – Blessing of cyclists, May 13, 1956, uniting bicyclists and motorcyclists. This took place in front of the basilica’s western transept,
which was then used for some outdoor ceremonies. CADRG 232-17 and 232-16

It wasn’t until 1983 that the first Blessing of Motorcycles took place. It was organized by the Organisation pour la promotion des droits des motocyclistes du Québec.4 On the second time in 1984, the annual blessing also featured a toy drive. To burnish their image, motorcyclists took advantage of the annual blessing at the Oratory to collect new toys for sick and underprivileged children. Despite its humble beginnings in 1983 with about 200 motorcyclists, it quickly became popular, with nearly 7,000 participants in 1995.5

Père Réal Fréchette, c.s.c., bénit une Suzuki

Fig. 3 – Father Réal Fréchette, CSC, blessing a Suzuki Boulevard C50T, May 28, 2016. André Charron, CSC

As for cars, the July-August 1957 French edition of The Oratory magazine published a notice that there was to be a blessing for autos.6 The following year, it reportedly became a tradition.7 The photo on the banner shows a blessing in May 1958.

Publicité à la page 15, du numéro de juillet-août 1957 de L’Oratoire.

Fig. 4 — Ad in the July-August 1957 French edition of The Oratory.

The first car blessings were held on March 15, 1964. On May 9, 1999, the Oratory instituted a Blessing of Automobiles—and not just any cars—but Mustangs. In 2012, we hosted nearly 500 Mustang drivers and their cars. Other models of cars were added including Corvettes and Beetles, but it wasn’t long before it was back to Mustangs.8

Bénédiction de véhicules

Fig. 5 — Blessing of Mustangs.

These two grand annual rituals ended in 2016, not for lack of popularity, but because the site is undergoing major renovations. The blessings are expected to start up again once the work is completed.

So, if you come to the Oratory to have your vehicle blessed, you’ll leave with a lightness in your step as well as in your soul.

Did you know?

Just like in 1957, the Oratory still provides a blessings for automobiles for those who so wish. However, due to the ongoing construction, the priests can no longer go outside to give a blessing directly. Only the key can be blessed at the Office of Information and Blessings. There, small bottles of holy water are available to drivers so they can sprinkle it on their car.

A special thank you to Fathers Frank Wagner, CSC, Patrick Celier, CSC, and Patrick Vézina, CSC, for the valuable information.


  1. Adapted from the article “Blessing”, in The Catholic Encyclopedia (1907)
  2. The Oratory, July-August 1949, p. 239.
  3. The Oratory, July-August 1956, p. 23.
  4. The Oratory, September 1983, p. 19.
  5. 10.04.00 Motorcycle Blessing
  6. The Oratory, July-August 1957, p. 15.
  7. The Oratory, July-August 1958, p. 29.
  8. 10.04.00 Blessing of Mustangs