ora pro nobis—pray for us

So the religious soul finds in the heart of Jesus a secure refuge against
the wiles and attacks of Satan, and a delightful retreat.
But we must not rest merely at the entrance to the hole in the rock,
we must penetrate its depths. At the mouth of the deep hollow, at the mouth
of the wound in his side we shall, indeed, find the precious blood which
has redeemed us.
This blood pleads for us and demands mercy for us.
But the religious soul must not stay at the entrance.
When she has heard, and understood, the voice of the divine blood,
she must hasten to the very source from which it springs,
into the very innermost sanctuary of the heart of Jesus.
There she will find light, peace, and ineffable consolations.

St. Anthony of Padua

(a mysterious painting of St. Anthony and the Christ child)

The saints pick us, we don’t pick them…
Or so that’s what they say.

But firstly, let’s remember, this is going to be a story about a painting…
nothing more, nothing less…

For starters, I’ve stated this before…I am not a Catholic—rather I was raised in the
fold of the Episcopal Chruch…that of the Anglican Communion.

I am however familiar with the family of Saints.
A seemingly Catholic notion.
Yet also very Anglican…

Also, I love my traditional Anglican hymns…
One little hymn, in particular, I Sing a Song of the Saints of God
I loved singing that hymn when I was a little girl attending children’s chapel.

Saints, in my youthful mind, were individuals who loomed large in our Christian Faith.
Brave, and even stoically defiant, in the face of persecution.
Some had been ardent unbelievers or dastardly sinners who had, for whatever reason,
come face to face with the God of all Creation and in turn, fell into His redeeming arms,
never looking back but rather becoming ardent defenders of the faith.

It was always the 3rd stanza of the hymn that offered me a sense of hopefulness that I too
could one day be counted among that same fold of brave Christian individuals.

they lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still;
the world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea;
for the saints of God are just folk like me,
and I mean to be one too.

I also know that when one is confirmed within the Catholic Chruch,
they are encouraged to choose a patron saint.
A heavenly individual who will walk alongside them as they navigate the world…
all the while the saint helps to provide inspiration along with a more spiritual focus.

The old saying goes, ‘you don’t pick the saint, the saint picks you.’

And I must admit, I actually agree.

We Protestants haven’t always quite understood the relationship our Catholic kin
have had with the Saints, but I’m one who has always appreciated that little relationship.
And that’s in part due to my Anglican upbringing.
As well as spending years in college studying religious Renaissance Art.

So no, it’s not an attempt at replacing Jesus as the focus of our prayers, praise,
and adoration but rather it’s more like having a few more folks in one’s corner
it’s just that those folks are a bit more heavenly than earthly.

Think of it like having a close friend who joins you in prayer and
who walks along by your side…it’s just that they’re there in spirit rather than
in the flesh.

But this isn’t a post about the virtues or vices of Saints in our lives…
rather this is a post about a painting…a painting of a saint…

Well, sort of…

The saint in question is Saint Anthony of Padua, otherwise known as
Santo Antonio di Padova.

Anthony was born Fernando Martins de Bulhões in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195.
Eventually, he became a Franciscan Friar, making Padua (Padova), Itlay home.

He is known as the patron saint of lost things.

But again, this is not necessarily to be a biographical post, just a post
about a painting…

I have had a long connection with St Anthony—one I’ve written about before.
But this particular tale is unlike our other run-ins and lingering relationship.

So just know, Santo Antonio and I have a history.
But this story isn’t about that story, but rather about a painting.

Several months ago, I took a couple of my grandmother’s old lamps over to Atlanta
in order to have then rewired.

They are lovely antique lamps that have just sat, never being used due to ancient
and most dangerous wiring.
My grandfather, who was an electrical engineer would, as a hobby, often turn the
antiques figurines or urns that my grandmother would bring home into lamps…
and so some of these lamps haven’t been updated in decades.
So I figured it was high time I got them up to speed so I could actually use them.

A friend of mine recommended a nice little lamp shop located over in Midtown…
and it just so happened that the shop also had a hodgepodge smattering of antiques.

I made several trips back and forth as I also decided that I needed to update a few lampshades.
Over the course of my visits, the owners and I struck up a nice little friendship.

We knew mutual old Atlanta stories and they knew some customers from Carrollton who
I knew.
Life can be delightfully small like that.

During one of my many trips over, one day my eye suddenly gravitated to an old beat-up
unframed oil painting perched all alone over in a forgotten corner.

The painting was ripped, chipped and cracking as the canvas was coming
untacked from the wooden base frame.
It was old, it was sad and it was unloved…
and it oddly drew me in.

Or rather it was the subject matter which immediately drew me in.

I asked the owners if they would consider selling the picture.

They said yes and it was actually a very affordable penance of a price for such an old painting.

Next they proceeded to tell me the story of how they came about the painting.

It seems that back in the early 1920s, The Vatican reached out to an Abbey in Michigan
about sending them approximately 50 paintings.
Why I’m not certain, but I do know that it was not uncommon for the Vatican to
‘lighten the load’ so the speak by gifting various abbeys, monasteries and churches
with some of their burgeoning collection of artwork.

The abbey kept the paintings until recently.

A nun from the abbey, out of the blue, reached out to these owners…
as it seems that one of the owners has a proclivity for antique
paintings and is known for such.

The nun explained how the abbey had gotten the paintings
but for a reason I never caught in this convoluted tale, asked if they’d be interested in
buying any of the paintings.

When they hung up the phone with the nun, they immediately rented a U-haul and drove
all night to Michigan.

They bought all 50 paintings and brought them back to Atlanta.

Many of the paintings have in turn been sold or were simply kept.

All but the one painting that had caught my eye—sadly because it
was most likely the one in the worst shape.

But that didn’t matter to me.
The painting called out to me and I couldn’t resist.

What I was planning on doing with a dilapidated,
torn old painting was beyond my husband’s soul…
but it mattered not, the painting had called to me.

A few weeks after bringing home my new old broken treasure,
my husband and I ventured down to a small town outside of
Callaway Gardens to spend an afternoon roaming around and having lunch.

I wandered into an antique shop and started looking at a couple of old frames that were for sale.
The owner asked what I had in mind for the frame.
That was when I began to share my tale about my painting and how I was looking for a frame.

She asked if I would consider bringing her the painting as she had a friend who actually
did restoration work on old paintings.

I agreed.
I was curious as to its background and there was just something about the painting
that seemed to plead with me to please bring it back to life.

I think that comes from spending a lifetime as an Art teacher

The short of this long story…we finally picked up the painting today…
It is estimated to be almost 200 years old.
It has been lovingly repaired, cleaned, re-stretched
and now rests in a pretty new frame…nearly 3 months after
I first saw it sitting alone in a corner.

So tomorrow, the painting of Santo Antonio will finally be hung up, surrounded by things
received and gathered during a lifetime of running into St Anthony.

I don’t know its origin.
I don’t know its artist.
I don’t know if the Vatican ever really once owned it or not.
And I don’t know the abbey that held on to it all these years.
I really don’t know anything about it…only but one thing…
it seems that saints find us, we don’t find them…

“I have learned on this journey that we can’t only study the saints who have personalities
or interests exactly like our own.
Our friends, including our Heavenly ones, should challenge us and help us to grow.
In seeing what we lack in our own lives, we are able to forge ahead and grow.
If we never seek out our defects or weaknesses, then we can never begin to overcome them.
So be open to saints who choose you and want to befriend you.
It is God moving in your life through His saints.
There is something you need to learn or I need to learn.
Let us be thankful for the saints who choose us through no merit of our own.
All you holy men and women, ora pro nobis.”

Constance T.Hull
Catholic Exchange

A bookstore, a war and a reunion….

“Be swift as a gazelle and strong as a lion to do the will of God in Heaven.”
(as seen on the ex libris of a book looted by the Nazi’s, a reference to
a line form the Mishnah, the Jewish redaction of oral traditions:
Andres Rydell The Book Thieves)

(the interior of a book store in Padova, Italy (Padua) / Julie Cook / 2007)

Today’s tale began many years ago, when my aunt and I found ourselves wandering
and weaving up and down the snake-like alley streets twisting through the old historic district of Padua, Italy…
better known to the Italians as Padova.

We were actually en route from Milan to Florence and opted to stop over for 3 days
in order to explore this deeply rich historical city.
And it just so happened that during our stay, during this particular mid June,
it was the height of the city’s yearly commemoration of Saint Anthony.

Padua is home to the Basilica Pontificia di Sant’Antonio di Padova, or the Pontifical Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua—a massive and beautiful church built to honor the Portuguese born saint who settled in Italy, making Padua his adopted home.
The building of the basilica was begun  in 1232, a year following Saint Anthony’s
death, and was finally completed in 1310—with modifications taking place in both
the 14th and 15th centuries.

It was a wonderful experience being a part of such a festive atmosphere, as
thousands of Catholics worldwide flock to this small Northern Italian town for
the June 13th feast day—
The city goes all out to make a colorfully vibrant yet equally respectfully spiritual
time for the thousands of pilgrims and tourists who flock to this city just south of Venice.

There are parades where the various ancient guilds are dressed in period costume as children, nuns, priests, monks and lay people march solemnly through the
narrow ancient streets all carrying flags as residents drape banners from their windows.

Yet Padua is more than just a spiritual hub, it is also very much of an intellectual
hub as it is home to the University of Padua, one of Europe’s oldest universities,
having been founded in 1222.
It is here where Galileo Galilei spent 18 years, of what he has described as being
the happiest years of his life, while he was the head of the Mathematics Department…
teaching, studying, lecturing and writing.

Italy, so rich in history, also happens to have a wonderful history with
paper making as well as bookmaking.
And Padua has its fair share of both fascinating and beautifully rich paper
as well as book shops–shops selling books, antique lithographs and rare prints.

It is said that after Spain, Italy is where paper making actually had its start.
It was most likely introduced to southern Italy by the Arabs who had in turn first
learned the craft from the Chinese.
Arab influence, particularly in architecture, can still be seen in and around the
Veneto region.

So it was during our visit, as we were wandering about one evening following supper,
that we saw the book store I’ve included in today’s post. The store was closed for the night and as we were going to have to be at the train station bright and early the following morning, I knew I would only get to visit this store by pressing my nose
to the window.

All these many years later, I still think about that store.

It had a wealth of what I surmised to be rare antique and ancient books.
Books, despite the language barrier, beckoned for my further investigation.
I would have easily considered giving up my train ticket to Florence just to be able
to wander in, dig and explore….
but it would take years for me to actually understand the draw as to what I would
be digging and looking for….
And as Life so often has her way, time has simply afforded for my wistful musing of
what might have been.

Having finally finished reading The Book Thieves by Anders Rydell,
the image of that book store in Padua has drawn me back time and time again
as I made my way through Rydell’s book. There is a very strong pull to go back
to look, to seek and to wonder.

There are not words nor adjectives enough for me to do justice to the meticulous story
Rydell lays out as he recounts the Nazi’s scrupulous, maniacal and highly
calculated quest to en masse the books of the all of Europe and Russia with
a keen penchant for those of the Jews.
Not only did they attempt to eradicate an entire race of people, they wanted
to hold, own and control the entire literary word of man—
particularly that of religion, science and history.
As they saw themselves as the new keepers of the history of humankind.

Millions and millions of books, both precious and random were taken…as myriads
are now lost or destroyed for all of time.

The Nazis had a detailed system for categorizing the stolen books.
And many of the books that are now scattered across the globe…
be they in large University libraries or small college collections,
to the random bookshop or second hand store—
many of those books still bare the labels of the Nazi’s numerical filing system.

The long arduous journey of Rydell’s very sad, horrific and overwhelming tale ends
in England with his actually reuniting a granddaughter, Christine Ellse, with a lone
little random book that had belonged to her grandfather–
a man she had never known personally but knew he had died in Auschwitz.
There were never any photographs, no sounds, no memories of a the man
this now grown woman so longed to know.

“Although I’m a Christian I have always felt very Jewish.
I’ve never been able to talk about the Holocaust without crying.
I feel so connected to all of this,” says Ellse,
opening the book and turning the pages for a while before she goes on.

“I’m very grateful for this book, because…I know my English grandparents
on my mother’s side.
They lived and then they died.
It was normal, not having any grandparents on your father’s side.
Many people didn’t, but there was something abnormal about this.
I didn’t even have a photograph of them.
There was a hole there, an emotional vacuum, if you see what I mean.
There was always something hanging midair, something unexpressed,”
Ellse says, squeezing the book.

“You know, my father never spoke about this.
About the past, the war.
But my aunt talked about it endlessly, all the time.
She was the eldest of the siblings, so she was also the most ‘German’ of them.
She coped with it by talking;
my father coped with it by staying silent about it.
I knew already when I was small that something horrible had happened.
I knew my grandparents had died in the war.
Then I found out they’d been gassed, but when you’re a child you don’t
know what that means.
It’s just a story—you don’t understand it.
Then I learned they’d died at Auschwitz. Only after I grew up did I begin to understand and get a grip on it.
It was very difficult when I found out they’d been murdered just ten days
before the gas chambers were shut down.
It was agonizing.
I imagine myself sitting on that train, experiencing the cold and the hunger.
And then straight into the gas chambers.
I’ve never able to get over it.”

Historian Patricia Kennedy Grimstead, a woman with a mission to see that war plunder is eventually reunited with families, notes that “millions of trophy books–although no one can say how many there are—will remain as ‘prisoners of war,”
Today, in Russia, there is no willingness to return books to the countries or families
that were plundered. But we still have to know what books are still represented there
from Europe’s cultural inheritance, a monument to the libraries that were destroyed
and scattered as a consequence of the most terrible war in human history.”

And so my mind wanders now back to that bookstore in Padua—
what book, if any, was there that had once been someone’s personal book
before madness took it away…
a book I now wish I could have found, in order to have brought it back home
to its rightful family.

The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind.
At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark.
You will be unsuccessful in everything you do;
day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you….

All these curses will come on you.
They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed,
because you did not obey the Lord your God and observe the commands
and decrees he gave you.
They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever.
Because you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly
in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst,
in nakedness and dire poverty,
you will serve the enemies the Lord sends against you.
He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you.

Deuteronomy 28:28-29, 45-48

Feast Days and Remembrance


“Among all things that are lovable, there is one that is more lovable than the rest, and that most lovable of all things is life.”
-St Anthony of Padua

Today, June 13th is the feast day of Saint Anthony of Padua—-Santo Antonio di Padova. Please see my previous post The Bracelet, the Saint and the Mystery for a more in depth story regarding this wonderful Franciscan.

May we all be reminded of the importance of life–all life is precious in the sight of God—no one on the planet is ever “less than” anyone else. I think Mother Teresa so poignantly demonstrated this in her respect for the sick and the dying of Calcutta as she would walk the streets in search of those very individuals forgotten and discarded by mainstream society. Her belief was that all people deserved to be tended to and cared for– allowing for all to die with dignity.

Those individuals who are less fortunate then me and you, those who live on the streets, who call a box home, who wander into food banks in search of something to eat, who lay sick and dying on a park bench—-they are no less important or loved by God, than you or I—as we are all the same. It is merely our clothing, our home, our car, our job, our position… that falsely separates us—the us and the thems—-
and it is but for the Grace of God go I….

Today, on this particular saint’s day of remembrance—a saint claimed by Padova, Italy–born in Lisbon, Portugal who regarded the poor of his day as precious in the sight of God, may we all be mindful of the people we see, or perhaps don’t see, as we go about our daily routines—an act of kindness or remembrance—a helping hand, a donation—is all it may take to make the difference in someone else’s life……


the bracelet, the Saint, the mystery


The human mind and heart are a mystery; but God will loose an arrow at them, and suddenly they will be wounded. Psalm 64:7

Growing up I had a vague idea about the Saints. Those ancient mystical individuals who lived and died heroes proclaiming the Gospel. Stories exotic and fanciful, taking place in lands far away from the world I knew. We weren’t Catholic, however as Episcopalians, the concept of saints was not a foreign notion. My family attended the Cathedral of St. Philip, the chapel was named St. Michael and I had a St. Christopher medal. So saints abound, all around my little world. There just wasn’t much of a personal relationship.

One of my favorite hymns we sang in children’s church was I sing a song of the Saints of God. It totally captured my imagination as it reveled in the lives of Queens and shepherds and of people being slain by fierce wild beasts. I imagined a dragon on some far away land doing battle with a brave knight. Perhaps the reference was to St. George.

The hymn went on to proclaim the virtues of “average” folks as well, those you’d meet at school or at a store… the hymn proclaimed that saints not only lived in ages past but are still here today, rich and poor– just everyday folks doing what they do in their daily lives but also working and doing the will of Jesus…”and God help me to be one too” I’d sing with great enthusiasm! So saints were not necessarily individuals who lived in ages past in ancient books, they were actually timeless.

I say all of this as I’ve learned that, although many of these individuals lived long ago and have stories associated, many with, magical legends, their stories, and that of their faith, are as fresh and relevant today as they have been down through the ages.

There is one Saint, however, who I’ve had an interesting relationship with over the past several years. San Antonio di Padova, better known to English speakers as Saint Anthony of Padua. The funny thing is that Saint Anthony is not from Padua, Italy but actually Lisbon, Portugal. It is as the finder of lost things that many of us know of Saint Anthony and of his role in our modern day world. The person we call upon if something, say like, keys or a book goes missing.


My first introduction to this “miracle worker” who finds all sorts of lost things was at school. Our bookkeeper would often invoke Saint Anthony when something went missing in her office. She’d start chanting this little “prayer”

St. Anthony, St. Anthony
Please come down
Something is lost
And can’t be found

I found the chant a little silly not to mention sacrilegious. I knew most folks at work were not familiar with saints, let alone the Catholic Church, and that this little chant was more voodoo than heartfelt prayer. But she believed in it and who was I to rain on her parade. If she felt it helped, so be it. It wouldn’t be long before I too found a need to invoke the assistance of St Anthony.

Years ago, shortly after my mother’s death, my Dad and I found ourselves practically turning around burying my grandmother. After the sad dust of our lives had settled, it was the time for sorting out the small details of losing two loved ones almost back to back, Dad decided that I should have her my grandmother’s jewelry. She had a beautiful diamond tennis bracelet.

The bracelet was very special and something I would only wear on very special occasions, otherwise it would need to stay locked up and safe.
As the years passed by, I became less particular when deciding what was to be a “special” occasion. I had adopted the mind set that if you had something special it should be enjoyed all the time, not relegated to the occasional ” dress up” affair. Life was short, I needed, we all needed, to enjoy the todays as the tomorrows may not ever come.

So one night when we were invited out to eat with another couple, I put on Nany’s bracelet. I had taken to wearing the bracelet even to work; the thought of a casual evening out seemed equally appropriate. How was I to know that once I got back home, I’d go on autopilot and “forget” taking off the bracelet and putting it in my pocket. I always checked my pockets before either hanging up my pants or tossing them in the wash. Didn’t I?

About a week went by before I thought about the bracelet. The bracelet! Where was the bracelet!? Oh my God!!! I suddenly felt sick. I didn’t know which was worse, losing the bracelet, letting Nany down or telling my husband, who had been telling me ever since Dad gave it to me, that he didn’t like me wearing it –it was just too expensive for me to wear.

As I began telling my husband, I immediately started crying. Maybe that saved me from certain death by an angry “I told you so.” I called the restaurant, the dry cleaners, I scoured the house, the car—I went through every single pair of pants in our closet—both my husbands and mine. I even had him in a panic thinking that maybe I had handed it to him at some point that night and that perhaps he had misplaced it—shared guilt in a crisis is not a bad thing, providing a bit of comfort.

I thought of Saint Anthony. No, I wasn’t thinking of that silly little nursery rhyme plea, but rather an honest to goodness prayer of intercession. I feverishly began researching St. Anthony and prayers asking for his assistance. I found a legitimate prayer of intervention.

Now I know enough about our Christian faith, despite our denominations or affiliations, that there is indeed a mystery involved in our use of prayer. I also believe that there is indeed power in prayer. I also believe in miracles but this, however, was not the place in which I was to ask for such—a miracle is to save a life, heal the sick…not intended for the recovery of a piece of materialism. Sadly it wasn’t just the fact that I had lost an expensive piece of jewelry. Nor that I had let down my grandmother, my husband, or myself…but now I was going to have to tell me dad what I had done.

When I was in the seventh grade my Grandmother had given me her college ring. It was from 1918. It was a very small gold ring from a small middle Georgia woman’s college. The ring was so small, as my grandmother was a very petite woman, which at age 12, my finger was the only finger around that it would fit.

That summer the entire family took off on a road trip to Louisiana in order to attend my cousin’s wedding. I can remember it as if it was yesterday rather than 41 years ago. We stopped for gas in the middle of nowhere Mississippi. I went to the bathroom. I slipped the ring off my finger so I could wash my hands, and failed to put it back on. Why I thought I should take it off to wash my hands is beyond my soul, but take it off I did.

My dad made me tell my grandmother, once we all made it to Lake Charles, that I had left her ring in a bathroom of a gas station back in Mississippi. I can remember the same sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. My grandmother, who was gracious and not nearly as concerned over its loss as my dad, told me not to worry about it. She certainly didn’t intend on wearing it again. Even though I was somewhat off the hook, I still felt terrible. To this day I still can get bothered thinking about my carelessness. And here I was, all these many years later, in the same sick feeling boat. Damn my luck, or blast my careless stupidity.

And now here I was, in another sticky wicket again, seeking the assistance of a Franciscan monk who had died over 700 years prior. I wasn’t expecting to be “heard” as this was not, in the big scheme of life, registering on the scale of most important life issues. Not worthy of a noteworthy saint, let alone something I should bring before God. He had much more important issues to attend to and desperate prayers to hear from those who were truly in need.

However I still felt compelled that I should pray the prayer, adding my own “I know this is a materialistic object and that losing it was not the end of the world but boy, it sure felt like the end of the world.” I conceded that perhaps I had not taken the care I should have when entrusted with something of value. I also told St Anthony that I was use to praying directly to God and that by no means was I trying to circumvent that approach but just that I had heard that he, St Anthony, was helpful in these sorts of troubles.

I then relinquished it all. I had said my prayer. The bracelet was gone, I had searched, I had screwed up, and it was now over.

A couple of weeks passed by since saying my prayer—it was now the Friday before Spring Break—the long awaited “holiday” had finally arrived. As a teacher there was a spring in my step this morning. The weather was warm, the day sunny and we were about to have a week off. I grabbed a pair of khakis that I thought I’d to put on to wear. The kids and I would be doing a little spring-cleaning in the classroom so casual was the call of attire for the day. As I put on the khakis, I pushed my hands down into the pockets straightening them out. I felt something in the right pocket. I pulled out of the pocket what I had felt and just stared. The bracelet.

The pants had come and gone to the dry cleaners. How in the world had I not found it when I was checking all of the pants, turning in and out every pocket in our closest? The cleaners also double-checked all pockets. I had talked with them about the bracelet; they knew I was desperately searching. How in the world?!

I ran into the kitchen screaming. My husband was dumbfounded.

Fast forward about 5 years. My aunt and I were plotting one of our adventures– Italian of course. Flying into Milan then taking the train the remainder of the way to Padua (Padova in Italian), Florence (Firenze), Assisi, Cortona and eventually Rome (Roma). I don’t know why I chose Padua. Maybe it was the Giotto frescos in the Cappella Scrovegni. Maybe I thought going to Venice would break the trip’s budget, as it is an expensive destination. Padua is not always on the tourist’s radar. It is a part of the Veneto region but it is Venice that takes the top-billing draw for this region.

It just so happened that during the time, in which our plans took us to Padua, the feast day of St Anthony was to take place, June 13th. A feast day for a hometown boy in the massive basilica of his same name is a big deal. The Feast day of Saint Anthony is a strongly recommended pilgrimage for Catholics. I had never been a part of a true pilgrimage, one with a true destination on a true day of a Feast day.

Arriving in Padua on the 12th of June there was indeed electricity in the air. People were already gathering at the Basilica as vendors were setting up all around the perimeter of the church. I’d love to tell you all about Padua. It is a lovely city –part Renaissance, part Moorish as it was under Moors rule at one point in its history. Padua boasts the oldest University in Europe. Galileo is still a recognized Chair of Mathematics here. I had the best Asparagus risotto at the famously ancient Café Pedrocchi but time will not permit me to give proper credit to Saint Anthony if I explore Padua.

Time unfortunately also will not permit me to go into a great depth about this humble Franciscan monk—who, by the way, started out as an Augustine monk. I will provide a few links for those of you wishing to know more. His life story is full of adventure, attempted trips to Morocco, desired martyrdom, illness, shipwrecks, and more—there were the trials and the joys. He was well known for his very knowledgeable preaching. He possessed eloquence and a fire about his preaching. He is a Doctor of the Church and it was St Francis who first assigned him as the instructor of theology for the Franciscan brothers.

St. Anthony was only 36 at his death, in1231, and was proclaimed a saint by Pope
Gregory IX, who referred to Anthony as “the ark of the Testament”, less than a year after his death, due in part because of a litany of miracles taking place at the humble friar’s tomb. His is the second fastest proclamation of a saint in history.

Today St. Anthony is venerated as a Saint for sailors and fishermen, barren woman and pregnant women, travelers and the poor, as well as those who seem have lost something. I like to think that perhaps the lost item may be more intrinsic rather than always something materialistic.

I marveled at the throngs of the faithful who had traveled to the Basilica for his feast day. At his tomb, hundreds lined up just for an opportunity of touching the huge cool marble edifice. There were a myriad of photographs and letters taped to the tomb and wall surrounding the tomb of people from all over the world who sought this humble saint’s assistance—many miracles are attributed to Anthony. The sheer number of people seeking Anthony’s aid overwhelmed me—I felt both a sense of sadness as well as comfort.

I can claim that I had a miracle—a truly undeserved miracle. It’s not something I proclaim by loudspeaker, as it was not deserved. I left an anonymous donation at his tomb, when we were in Padua, asking that the money be used in the ministry for the local poor, which a huge part of the works of the Franciscans at the Basilica.

Skeptics, non-believers, as well as many believers, would tell me that finding the bracelet was purely coincidental. Maybe so. But I know that I scoured every nook and cranny. There was no answer as to why the bracelet was in the pocket of a pair of pants that had been checked, taken to the cleaners, rechecked, dry-cleaned, eventually making their way back to the closet.

I have lived long enough to know that I cannot explain everything logically that takes place in our lives. Some things remain a mystery. Some things cannot be easily explained away. It is our nature to want to answer all questions and it is our arrogance in thinking that we can have all of those answers to all those questions. I, for one, am glad that it is not ours to know all.

St Anthony was dead for almost 40 years when a new Basilica was built in his honor—the church we see today. His body was to be moved to this new place of honor. It was St Bonaventure who presided over the removal of the body. Upon opening the tomb, St Anthony’s body had turned to dust, all but his tongue. His tongue was said to still be intact, fleshy and pink. St Bonaventure proclaimed “O Blessed Tongue that always praised the Lord, and made others bless Him, now it is evident what great merit thou hast before God.”

I know that not everything we pray for seems to be answered nor in the way in which we often desire. People will still get sick, people will still die, bad things will still happen to good people. Why is it to some things and why not to others? As I stated in the “about me” section of this blog, I marvel in the fact that I am the created and not the Creator—it is not for me to know all of the whys and the why nots.