I am Catholic by birth and upbringing. I can no longer claim the distinction of actually being a practicing Catholic however. It’s been far too long since I’ve set foot in a church. So, I don’t typically celebrate St Anthony’s Feast. But this year I intend to. Yep, this year on June 13th, I will celebrate the feast of Saint Anthony of Padua along with the “real” Catholics.
I remember some things about being Catholic. Like going to church every Sunday. Like being an altar-girl. Like the prayers. I can still recite the Hail Mary and the Lord’s Prayer in both french and english no problemo. My mother quotes the Bible to this day, and I remember her quoting it back then too. Amazingly, I even remember some of the sayings: “Let the little children come to me for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, ” or “Ask and you shall receive”… Yeah, those words are a part of who I am even now.
The catholic saints are probably the thing that fascinated me the most about that religious upbringing. I remember my mother telling us the saintly stories. She told us of Kateri Tekakwitha, the young native woman who was sainted. I remember the story of Padre Pio a priest who bled in the same places that Christ did after crucifixion. And we heard about the three children of Lourdes to whom the Virgin Mary appeared.
One of the most powerful and busy saints, to my knowledge and experience, is Saint-Anthony of Padua. Say I were studying to be a saint – anything’s possible – I would ask Saint Anthony for pointers. That guy has got his act together, let me tell you. Saint-Anthony of Padua is the patron saint of Lost Things, and I, lapsed though I may be, always pray to him for help with finding stuff. Here is a guy who is working from beyond the grave to keep track of the stuff you’ve lost and I swear his stats are pert’ near perfect. I could go on for days about the hundreds of things I’ve lost that Saint Anthony has found again. And I know you skeptics don’t believe me, which is fine, but I myself have some darn compelling reasons to give Anthony there the benefit of the doubt.
At this point in my story, there are 7 of us kids in the family. Four of us have yet to be born. We range in age from 18 months to 13 years old. We like to play outdoors in our expansive rural yard. We live out in what we lovingly refer to as “the sticks”; the closest neighbours are a long way off. I personally am about 8 years old. Our mom comes out of the house and tells us she has to go into town. She tells us we have to watch the baby, Simone, who is with us outside playing and who is widely known as a “busy-buddy”. She’s an 18 month old, 20 lb trouble-maker. You know the kind. My mom gets in the car and takes off for town. About half way there, she changes her mind. “Something’s not right”, she tells herself, “I have to go back”. On the gravel dirt road, she turns the car around and drives back home again. As she gets out of the car, she asks us where Simone is. “She was right here 2 seconds ago,” someone says. We all look at each other. We begin to quietly look about. After a minute we realize she’s nowhere. Where is she? We start looking. We spread out. We run and call in all directions. Looking everywhere in the immediate vicinity. In the house. In our large yard. In the gardens. Throughout the many sheds. We spread out in search of her. My mother invokes Saint-Anthony, the patron saint of Lost Things.
Half an hour later, we’ve yet to find her. My mother calls us all back to the yard and orders us all to be quiet. We hush up. “I’m going to call her. And you with all your ears, will listen as hard as you can.” She begins. “SIMONE!” she shouts. All is quiet. “SIMONE!” She shouts again. And in the distance, a sharp ear hears a small something. Someone whispers: “Did you hear that? I heard a noise.” My mother shouts: “SIMONE!” And again someone hears something. It’s difficult to position the sound, but my mother continues her shouts. Our hearts beat as we begin to get a lock on the sound, stretching our ears to listen, following the faint sound through the yard, to the south side of the house, towards the wooded area of our rural property, down into, and up out of, a generous ditch. Across a road. Down into, and up out of, a large ravine. And into the scrubby woods. My mother continues her calls. In an organized line we follow the tiny replies. It sounds like a faint: “Quoi?” which means “What?” in french. Deep into the woods, we beat a path. We continue together until we come upon her. My sweet sister Simone, who at a year and a half, is making her way through the forest, following our big cat Joe. And even as we try to collect her in our arms, she runs away from us laughing. But through the laughter and the ensuing tears, we thank our beloved St Anthony for helping us find her, our beautiful baby sister, Simone, the “busy-buddy” trouble-maker.
So to the skeptics far and wide, I have only one thing to say to you: “Be that way”. As far as I’m concerned the fewer people who know about and believe in St. Anthony, the better. More for me if you know what I mean. Cause I have needs, man. I have sisters to find and such.