How can I fear a God who is nothing but mercy and love?"
These are the words of our sister St. Therese, and you can see St. Anthony must have believed in their truth, even if he lived half a dozen centuries before she said them. Look at how open and Marcel-like he is in his conversation with Little Jesus in the photo above. (We know Therese's dear sister Celine was an excellent photographer, but Murillo is right up there with her.) St. Anthony seems to be, on this occasion, arguing vociferously with our adorable Lord and Savior, and I happen to know what they're arguing about . . .
I'm pretty sure you can't guess since it concerns something fairly mundane, and yet oh so important to me. It's my driver's license. I don't remember if I've told you yet, but I left it in Los Angeles at the federal courthouse two days before Thanksgiving. No, I haven't committed a felony! I was accompanying my husband to his federal jury duty; we took the early commuter train (in fact I remember writing to you about that, if I'm not mistaken), my esteemed and lucky husband didn't get chosen for a jury, we took Amtrak home, and somewhere in the midst of all that (precisely when we went through security at the courthouse, which made airport security look lax at LAX), I left my driver's license behind.
For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, two things happened next. First, I contacted the courthouse (while we were whizzing away from it at top speed, but oh my goodness, modern technology is amazing even if my latest incarnation of it is in a flip phone) and they confirmed that my license was safely in the hands of the U.S. Marshalls who manned security. Then actually not second but really very first (and with two firsts, that still makes two things that happened, however poorly expressed), I contacted St. Anthony (no flip phone required).
St. Anthony is my go-to man.
When I was a girl and heading toward confirmation, I read a book about him that told of the statue of baby Jesus coming to life in Mary's arms and leaning down to hug St. Anthony. Wow. I now knew what to pray for in church, and fairly quickly I decided he would be my confirmation saint.
My best bud Julia's mom (Julia being my best bud, and then her mom being not only her mom but a wonderful friend to me too, in an extra mom sort of way) smilingly explained that wouldn't be necessary since my middle name was already Antoinette, which is the girl's form of Anthony, hence he already was my patron and I could choose another. Good thing, since my second choice, St. Thomas Aquinas, though seemingly ignoring me for the next four years, was biding his time until he sprung my future upon me: this tiny college named after himself, and all it had to offer (the Faith, galaxies of Saints, my future husband, lots of heroes and friends, and oh, yeah, a Catholic liberal education just to round out the experience).
Don't worry, though, St. Anthony didn't mind. He and St. Thomas were in cahoots, and while the Dumb Ox usually gets credit for helping me "find" his college (and thus my faith, my future, my husband, my vocation, my mission, etc.), we all know that behind any good finding is the Saint of lost things, "il Santo," the one fought over by the Portuguese and the Italians like Fulton Sheen is now by the Peorians and the New Yorkers (and my goodness that restores my faith and hope in present-day Catholicism - when you've got people fighting over the bodies of the Saints, you know you're right smack in the middle of the authentic lunacy of the Faith!).
Once in college, my devotion to my middle-name-Saint didn't cool, but gained heat and light when I began depending on him more in a personal way. I discovered he always comes through, whether it's with finding a lost notebook needed for class and exams, or finding the right husband so his client can go on to have children to name in honor of them both. The husband and il Santo, I mean.
For yes, it happened. I met and married a man named Anthony, and our two sons have Anthony in their names. We'd hoped for daughters too, and we would've found a way to include our good Saint's name in theirs as well (Antoinette again? Antonia perhaps?), but God's plan didn't include our naming any daughters, so here we are, 3 Anthonys and an Antoinette.
Thanks to our other son, the Nigerian one, we call upon our patron with gusto whenever anything is lost. It used to be a rhyme (from my childhood, thanks to Julia's mom; from my husband's ,thanks to his Sicilian mom - whose birthday was yesterday, so please say an Ave for her intentions and in thanksgiving to God for creating her and making her so lovely in every way!) that goes like this:
Dear St. Anthony, please come around.
There's something lost that must be found.
Which worked fine for years and years, but Africa has so much to give us, and the Nigerian Guild of St. Anthony in particular has given me in particular 3 priceless treasures to date (not to mention the countless lost items its wonderful battle cry has helped me recover):
1. First and foremost, its given me said 3rd son. I can only surmise that prayers to St. Anthony, and thus St. Anthony himself, had a role in giving their firstborn to the Nigerian royalty who are my third son's parents (at least that's how I think of them, as royalty, and if you'd met them when I did, you'd think so too, their grace, attire, dignity, goodness, and the paparazzi that surrounded them on their American tour, testifying to their royal blood).
2. The St. Anthony Guild, thanks to my third son's parents, has also shown me that if we want to honor the Saints, we ought to follow the Nigerian custom of printing their images on our material - not just our reading material, but our clothing! I wish I could show you the beautiful cloth the royal family gave me, knowing as they did how much I love our mutual benefactor. Truly a gift from heaven, it's reminiscent of Giotto's cycles of the life of St. Francis in the Basilica in Assisi, and St. Anthony in Padua, for on a rich brown background around a central image of St. Anthony and the Christ Child, the brilliant Nigerian devotees have printed a series of medallions illustrating the life and miracles of il Santo. Gorgeous!
3. And finally, for use on a nearly daily basis, the Nigerian Guild of St. Anthony has taught me a prayer that's become our family's mantra.
Did you ever play "Marco Polo"? Children play it (in the U.S. at least) in swimming pools. A group of kids are in the pool; one child is "it" and closes his eyes (works best if all the children can swim!), while the others take up various places in the water at varying distances from their friend. He calls out "Marco!" and the others reply "Polo!" Following the sounds of their voices, he has to swim over and touch one of them, who then becomes "it." Explaining the rules now, it sounds like a game of torture (at least if I were "it"!) but I remember it being a lot of fun, especially calling back and forth to each other at the top of our lungs.
Leave it to the Nigerians to find a much better way to play! No water, no need to swim or sputter, no closed eyes, and you only need two to play. Here's how it works:
I lose something (that's the easy part!), I call out at the top of my lungs, "ANTO!" (that's the fun part) and you, somewhere in calling distance, perhaps across the house, but I've even done it texting (if you, or the other party, happen to be across the country), reply in kind, "PADUA!" (that's the thrilling part).
Need I mention that meanwhile I'm looking - and if you're in the vicinity, you might join me - for the lost item? This does make it more like the children's game for, even without water, I do often feel like my eyes are shut (though they're wide open) and I'm "it," looking to find and touch what's hidden from me.
The conclusion of this great Nigerian St. Anthony game is that when I find the lost item, I call out again, even more loudly if possible, "ANTO!" in joy and relief, and you respond, "PADUA!" to express your wonder and gratitude along with mine. It's just the best! Everyone wreathed in smiles, and feeling straight out of the Gospel - I'm the woman who's found the lost coin, and you're the one I host to a party.
(Incidentally, I always love trying to figure out if this woman-in-the-Gospel used the whole coin to pay for the party celebrated in honor of finding it, and if that's as funny as I think it is. Writing about it now, I see that it doesn't matter because the real joy is in God's mercy and love - He gave us the coin to start with, He helps us find it when we've lost it, and He's the one we thank in our festivals of gratitude, whether they involve fattened calves, an excursion to The Cheesecake Factory, or simply a joyous shout in praise of His goodness shining forth in the kindness of His Saints.)
Singing out, crying out, desperately shouting out, or joyously exclaiming St. Anthony's name is only half my usual protocol, though. Well yes, half because I depend on someone else to sing, cry, shout, or exclaim in reply, but also half because of St. Anthony's Bread.
Because the other custom I love, love, love, is called St. Anthony's Bread, and here's what my handy (as in, at hand right now) St. Anthony of Padua prayer book(let) from the Companions of St. Anthony says about it:
"Popular devotion to St. Anthony of Padua over hundreds of years has identified him as the patron saint for finding lost or stolen articles. Even more importantly, he is the saint who finds lost souls. In Europe, people have prayed to St. Anthony as the 'Holy Matchmaker.' Others have considered him the patron saint of those who travel the seas. Because of his great love for the poor, the tradition arose of assisting the needy with 'St. Anthony's Bread,' a donation given to a charity in thanksgiving for favors requested or received through St. Anthony's intercession."
Yep, exactly. And in fact that's why I'm writing about him here today. You see, since I lost my driver's license two weeks ago, I've been promising all sorts of things to St. Anthony. I usually start out promising I'll give them when he finds my missing item, but almost immediately I realize how terribly stingy of me that is, so I tell him, "Okay, I'll give what I've promised now, and then you find x." I suppose he and I both know I'm likely to forget my promise, and then, too, I don't want it to look like I'm only good for what I can get (though it is a marvelous exchange, as they say).
And so in this matter of my driver's license (my loss of it and my hope for Anto's finding it and, moreover, returning it to me PROMPTLY PLEASE?!?!?!), I have so far promised and given a number of things. Naturally, Marcel-like on my part, I've forgotten exactly what they are, but I try to be creative to keep my patron amused and interested in my case. Usually St. Anthony is So Fast, but this time, he's taking his sweet old time (and when you consider that he's with God now, and that for God, a thousand years is as a single day, it's hard not to get nervous about the timely return of the DL) . . . and the consequence on my side is to try and express my love and petition (and anticipated thanksgiving) in many and vastly amusing (just to keep St. Anthony interested) ways.
The most interesting, I think, has been my finally making business-holy cards for Marcel, Therese, and me. I've wanted to do this since last June, and it popped into my head on the train home (sans driver's license) as something I could do for St. Anthony. (Don't try to understand how that would be "for St. Anthony." I'm not even sure, but I think it's because Marcel is littlest and poorest even in Heaven, though rich in Jesus and the love of his brothers and sisters, the Saints. And I thought that someone famous like St. Anthony might enjoy helping out an underdog like Marcel.) If you'd like me to send you one of the holy cards (which turned out so nicely!), just "Contact Me" using the button/box higher up on the right. You can scroll up and you'll find "Contact Me" in the sidebar, in a grey box under the list of months.
But of the other items on my St. Anthony's Bread to-do list, the most promised and still half-done deed is my money-to-charity, so I'll get that in the mail before I post this, God willing.
Then, too, yesterday I said a Rosary for St. Anthony's intentions and those of his clients . . .
And what, we might ask, has St. Anthony been doing for me?
His list is much longer and grander, as befitting a sibling already through the pearly gates.
Just off the top of my head, with help from St. Anthony:
My marriage continues happily, my husband's parents and mine are thriving, each in their own so beautiful way, our sons are healthy in body and soul, and I could go on and on, but God's blessings, truly, are uncountable.
Yes, truly, but then what has St. Anthony been doing in the Case of the Lost Driver's License?
My best guess, and the photo above confirms it, is that he's been arguing with baby Jesus.
You'll notice little Jesus looks kind of stern, while St. Anthony seems to be imploring Him.
As a frequent listener-in on holy Conversations, I'm happy to give you my take on the dialogue:
St. Anthony: Little Jesus, can we give her the driver's license now?
Jesus: No, Anthony, not yet.
St. Anthony: But little Jesus, she needs it.
Jesus: That's none of your business. I'm not scolding you, little brother, just trying to teach you that our Father will take care of these things. You can go spend time with Mary now.
St. Anthony: But little Jesus, she keeps asking me to give it back to her!
+ + +
To tell you the truth, as much as I read Marcel's Conversations, I can't be sure I'm getting exactly right what Jesus and the other Saints say to each other, so the above lines are more of a guess than a careful transcription.
Still, I know Jesus is right - our Father will take of this and everything else.
Yet at the same time, without quite saying Jesus is wrong (and since I'm not entirely clear what He's saying to St. Anthony, I'll take the hit and say maybe I got it wrong), I don't think that bit about it not being any of St. Anthony's business can be true.
Or better yet (says the middle child, the peace maker) perhaps we're all right - it wouldn't be Anto's business, but he's so kind and compassionate that we keep dragging him into it. Then what's a Saint to do?
I don't want to keep him from gazing on Mary, and I'd like to say, "Just this one favor, St. Anthony, and I won't bother you again," but I never know when the next crisis will occur ("Okay, my brain must be around here somewhere. Now where could I have left it this time?"), and we do tend to return to the friends who've come through for us in times of past need . . .
Anyhow, I'm waiting for a call from an incredibly kind new friend named Brittany. She works at an office building near the Federal Court building, and she's going to make a special trip to the FC building to try and find my license, which seems (US Marshalls and all) to have gone seriously missing. If she finds it, she's offered to mail it back to me, and wouldn't that be miraculously wonderful?
When I asked St. Anthony what he was waiting for (and before I found the documentation that is our picture at the top of this post, and which explains that he and Jesus have been arguing my case), I realized that one thing I haven't given him for his bread is a post-of-his-own here at Miss Marcel's Musings.
So here it is, dear St. Anto, and I hope it will spread your fame far and wide. Don't blame me if you get more requests than ever, but I'm asking Marcel to come argue with Jesus in your place. Then you can go find my license and send it back via Brittany, and then both you and Marcel can laugh at the trick you've played on Jesus. And THEN with him you can both sit on Mary's lap with Therese and tell stories. Preferably stories about us and how much help we still need here in this land of exile where (thank and kiss little Jesus for us!) we are so lucky to know you up there, and that you're thinking and talking about us and gaining more mercy and love for us from that bundle of Divinity, our Savior and Spouse.
Oh, and dear St. Anthony, since I've been having trouble finding the envelope for the charity to which I was going to send money in your name, I'll give it one more look-see, and if I can't find that too, I'll drop the money in the poor box in church during my holy hour. Which I'll gladly offer today, in union with you, in thanksgiving to Our Blessed Mother for her help in getting us (so many of us throughout the world, in Marcel-land and beyond) consecrated to her tomorrow.
Just to let little Jesus know we're teasing and don't think He's the one holding up St. Anthony's successful intercession (I really can't say for sure what they're arguing about in the picture, and it might just be someone else's case), let's say our prayer with greater love than ever today:
Little Jesus, draw me, we will run!
And now, before we go, you know the drill -
And you say . . . . (PADUA!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
* * *
p.s. I'll keep you posted on any developments in my case!
* * *
p.p.s The moral of the story is, when you lose something (or if there's something you need to find, whether it's your vocation, a good spouse, your lost hope, or some dark chocolate), pray to St. Anthony. Promise him the moon, or anything else you're inspired to try and give, and then laugh. Because miracles are about to happen, and there is nothing funnier (and believe me, I LOVE funny so I should know this!) than miracles.
Case in point.
Case # 7,777, 777, 777, 777, 777, 777, 777 to be exact.
The Case of Suzie's Missing Driver's License:
While doing a final proofread of the above post and tweaking the sentence wherein we ask St. Anthony to thank little Jesus for us (that was in parentheses, and I think this post may qualify for the Guinness Book of World's Records in the Most-Parenthetical-Remarks-in-One-Blog-Post category) - and I was just adding the word "kiss" which deserves another post in its honor, but for now simply asking St. Anthony to kiss Jesus for us - three things happened.
1. I got a text from my friend NT. It's JT's birthday TODAY - so God bless JT and his lovely NT and their darling duo of kidlets - and NT asked for prayers for a great day for her beloved, and I told her I'd ask St. Anthony to find that day for them and would she Please say a prayer for me too - that St. Anto would find my Driver's License.
2. After I sent my text to NT and was trying to make room for her return text (my phone being almost as dumb as I am and neither of us having much memory and both of us - if phones have feelings and I'm sure mine must, to compensate for its lack of smart - not wanting to delete any more than we have to), a voicemail came through.
3. Can you guess who it was from?
Can I write this without tears? I can't. That would be plain ungrateful and wrong.
So, in thanks to St. Anthony for being such a brick, and as a lesson to you, dear reader, to keep offering him every kind of bread you can come up with (and I know a wonderful baker who, being a friend of Marcel's, will read this, and she makes SO MANY kinds of bread and even sent me a loaf across the country, so I can tell you from my own blessed experience that there are so many delicious breads we can offer little Jesus, St. Anthony, and their beloved poor ones - breads of physical and spiritual dimensions that are beyond anything we've ever imagined before!) . . . I would like to announce that I have found what St. Anthony was waiting for:
This post, and me to proclaim, with joyful tears, God's goodness shining through His love in the hearts of the Saints, who are (as Marcel loves to call them) our brothers and sisters, and who love (as Therese loves to teach us and show us) to shower roses upon us.
Because guess who the voicemail was from?
IT WAS FROM BRITTANY AND SHE FOUND MY LICENSE AND SHE HAS ALREADY POPPED IT INTO THE MAIL TO ME!!!!!
And so, that I might post this piece of bread :) and that you might eat it :) :), I will conclude with my half at the top of my lungs, and please make Heaven smile by shouting your half right back at me! Though I may not hear you with my physical ears, I can already hear you in my heart, and I can hear, too, little Jesus laughing with St. Anthony, our sister Therese, and funny Marcel. They're on Mary's lap, and they're going to fall off, they're laughing so hard. I can't wait for Heaven, they make is So Much FUN!!!!
Oh, but before I yell (and you yell back) in joyful praise, let me add this note: NT texted me back to ask if I'd looked in the fridge. I'd forgotten - she lost her DL a month ago and we prayed to St. Anthony and sure enough, after some time without it, she found her I.D. in the most obvious place. The fridge. So if you lose yours, before calling Brittany (God bless and reward her!) you might try the fridge. And the couch. And the reclining chair. Those are places I often find my stuff too . . . But now, with a deep breath and a huge smile, I'll yell my half and leave the rest to you.
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