As I sat down to write this article, a commercial came over the radio and alerted me that this was national trucking week. During this week, Canadians recognize the valuable contribution made by truck drivers to society. I felt this event was a great idea. Truck drivers are some of the most wonderful people you will ever meet.
Adventures on the Road
During the year-and-a-half that I lived in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and worked for the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), I was blessed with the opportunity to meet and befriend a truck driver named Charlie Hatchko. Although you will never see Charlie on EWTN or read his byline in major Catholic newspapers, Charlie was one of the greatest Catholic evangelists that I had ever met. He had a grade-eight education and had spent fourteen years as a long-distance truck driver.
Charlie always kept both a Bible and a Catholic catechism in his cab. The pages were well worn from use and little notes filled every margin. As Charlie hauled cargo across the United States and Canada, he evangelized many waitresses, gas attendants and fellow truck drivers along the way. He did so under the CB handle “Bible Buck.” Unfortunately, health problems forced Charlie to give up driving rigs (but not evangelization!).
While living in Scranton, I often invited Charlie to accompany me whenever my ministry took me to another city within driving distance. As a scholar and a writer I was not the most practical person on the road. Charlie always knew when something was wrong with my car and, more importantly, the most inexpensive place to fix it without compromising quality. More importantly, Charlie and I enjoyed each other’s company as two friends whose only common interest was our love of the Catholic faith and our zeal for evangelization. We always had a great time together as the Holy Spirit led us into some pretty interesting adventures.
Wading Right into the Thick of It
One of our funnier adventures involved us stopping for breakfast in a small town. The restaurant was hidden from the main highway, which is why Charlie insisted we stop there. “It was one of my favorite places as trucker,” Charlie said. “They serve a good breakfast and it shouldn’t be crowded.”
Charlie was right about the first point. Yet he could not have been more wrong about the second. The dining area was filled with fundamentalist Protestant ministers. They had gathered to discuss how best to “bring the Gospel to Catholics.” As we scanned the dining area for an open table, we heard talk of how Catholics “worship Mary” and “are prohibited from reading the Bible.” Finally, Charlie spotted the only opening; it was a two-seat table in the middle of the restaurant.
Charlie never stopped to ponder our predicament. He simply walked over to the empty table and claimed a chair with his coat. “Are you sure about this?” I whispered as we sat down. “I'm a canonist, not a Scripture scholar. Maybe we should find somewhere else.”
There was no need to ask. Bible Buck was as fearless as King David when it came to defending God’s truth. He pulled out a large crucifix from under his shirt and let it hang over his shirt. More than one minister smiled in eager anticipation. At least one enthusiastic fellow commented on how this would be “a wonderful opportunity to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to papists.” Others commented about how no “true Christian” would wear a crucifix when Christ has resurrected from the dead.
Charlie simply smiled in return. Opening his Bible to one of his favorite epistles, Charlie said in a rather loud voice: “Hey Pete, what do you make of Galatians 3:1? ‘O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?’”
The conversation at the other tables stopped. Every set of eyes in the dining rooms turned and stared at us. I wanted to crawl under the table, but Bible Buck was roaring and ready to go. “Why are some Christians scared of Christ crucified when that is the price our Lord paid for our sins? Of what use is the resurrection without the crucifixion?”
Bible Buck took 'em all. He showed true Christian charity avoiding the use of insult or polemic as he answered each objection to the Catholic faith put forward by the preachers in the room. “Don’t have time for name-calling when I’m trying to share the Gospel,” Charlie explained afterward. Bible Buck showed the preachers where our Catholic practices and beliefs were founded in Holy Scripture. By the end of breakfast every Protestant minister in the restaurant was in awe of this Catholic trucker's knowledge of the Bible. They had stopped attacking the Catholic faith and were now asking sincere questions.
By responding positively to God’s grace, Charlie had once again demonstrated how he earned the nick-name “Bible Buck.” The preachers were stunned to discover that Charlie not only lacked formal education in Scripture and theology, but that he did not even possess a high-school diploma. I’m just a working man who is open to the Holy Spirit,” Charlie explained. “Spent fourteen years as a long-distance trucker with nothing in my cab but a Bible, a Catechism, and the desire to follow God’s will. That’s where God taught me the Bible.”
Being Real Can’t Be Beat
Charlie taught me a number of important lessons about being a Catholic that day. The first is that God calls all of us to carry out the work of the new evangelization. From Pope Benedict XVI to the newly baptized layperson, each of us has a role to play in bringing Christ’s Gospel to the world.
The second lesson is that we must not be afraid to stand for our beliefs as Catholics and correct those who hold or spread misconceptions about the Catholic faith. Archbishop Fulton Sheen once shared the following observation: “Fewer than a hundred people dislike the Catholic faith, but millions hate what they perceive to be the Catholic faith.” How are these misconceptions to be corrected if we as Catholics shy away from correcting them?
The third lesson is to be charitable and be real. Charlie possessed neither formal education nor worldly accomplishments about which he could boast. Nevertheless, he always treated everyone he came across with respect. From the prisoners serving time in the local jail to prostitutes and drug addicts, Charlie always acknowledged their dignity as human persons. He would then attempt to discover the good in them and relate it back to Christ’s Gospel.
Additionally, when Charlie spoke of personal limitations and weaknesses, they were usually his own. “If God can use a dummy like me to spread the Gospel,” I once heard Charlie joke with a former prostitute attempting to beat drug addiction, “then it should be a piece of cake for you. Keep praying and God will give you strength to succeed in this endeavor.”
Although my family and I are now back in northern Ontario, we still keep in regular contact. Charlie’s zeal for spreading the Gospel has not waned in his golden years. And whenever I pass a tractor-trailer on the highway I thank God for Bible Buck and all of Christ’s other truckers.
© Copyright 2006 Catholic Exchange
Pete Vere is a canon lawyer and a Catholic author. He recently co-authored Surprised by Canon Law: 150 Questions Catholics Ask About Canon Law (Servant Books) with Michael Trueman and More Catholic Than the Pope (Our Sunday Visitor) with Patrick Madrid. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada.
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