Friday, June 15, 2007

Why is St. Anthony the patron of lost things?

Who's asking: Me

This week I have been foundering in the worst kind of disorder, as often happens when I'm home after a long stretch of traveling. Looking at the calendar I see that I've been on the road a ridiculous amount of time this year, and more or less nonstop since the end of April.

So this week I've been digging out from under a mountain of laundry and paperwork, none of which has anything to do with five or six client projects that require immediate attention, or the fact that Lucky Stiff opens in less than a week. (Make your reservations now. The show will sell out, particularly during the second weekend, and we hate, hate, hate to turn people away.)

Anyway, all of this is to explain why I can't find my phone. I have two cordless phones. One rings, one doesn't. The one that rings resides in my living room, but I set it down somewhere the other night, and now I can't find it. The battery's died, so I can't find it by calling myself. It's somewhere in the apartment, it has to be -- and my apartment only has four rooms -- but I haven't found it yet, despite asking St. Anthony for help.

St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) was a Lisbon-born monk of the order of St. Augustine who joined the Franciscans to become a missionary to Morocco. His health forced him to sail for home, but a storm diverted him to a Franciscan priory on the coast of Sicily. He became a hermit, and lived in seclusion and contemplation until 1222, when he gave an impromptu sermon at a gathering of Franciscans and Dominicans. Francis of Assisi sent Anthony to northern Italy to preach a gospel of holy poverty. As you might expect, this wasn't a popular message; the legend has it that since Anthony could find no people to listen to him, he preached to the fishes. Anthony became a teacher of monks and a friend of Pope Gregory IX. He preached to crowds that numbered in the tens of thousands, and worked himself to death at the age of only 36.

Anthony's role as finder of lost things comes from a legend about his own life. A novice leaving Anthony's monastery on bad terms took Anthony's psalter with him. Anthony prayed for its return, and the thief not only brought the book back, but re-entered the order.

In that foggy region between faith and superstition, I ask St. Anthony for help all the time. It's almost a Zen exercise; I take a deep breath, clear my mind, think, "Please, St. Anthony," and lo and behold, there it is -- whatever it is.

I'm sure the phone is right in front of me. I'm not sitting on it -- I checked -- but I'm sure it's someplace obvious.

What I Read This Week

Mary Ann Tirone Smith, Girls of Tender Age. I heard Karen Olson rave about this book more than a year ago, and was delighted to snag a signed paperback at BEA. It's a memoir of Tirone Smith's working-class childhood in Hartford, during which a serial killer molested and strangled one of her classmates. Tirone Smith pulls off the virtuoso stunt of narrating her own memoir in the present tense, while telling the killer's story in the past tense; it should not work, but she's such a good writer that it does. (Don't try this at home.)

Judy Clemens, The Day Will Come. I don't read many amateur detective series, because it becomes so hard for them to be plausible after a few installments. How many people can get killed around one amateur sleuth before that person gets a reputation as the grim reaper? (If you were planning a vacation in Maine, you wouldn't go to Cabot Cove.) Four books into her series about dairy farmer Stella Crown, Judy Clemens is still managing to bring this off... but just barely. This time around, Stella gets involved in the investigation of the death of a rock singer who was secretly engaged to one of her closest friends. It's always a pleasure to hang out with Stella, but I wonder what she'll do for an encore.


Anonymous said...

My husband, Terry lost his wedding ring (twice). The first time I prayed to St. Anthony. He shook his head and gave me the oh... well... it couldn't hurt look. It didn't work. I told him it was because it was his ring and he didn't say the prayer. So, he begrudgingly prayed (with the, "you silly catholic" look on his face). The next day, he found his ring behind a row of cds in our office. He hadn't put his hand there before. He doesn't know how it got there. I, of course, explained that it was St. Anthony.

The second time, he prayed to St. Anthony with very little prompting by me. He found the ring behind to toilet brush in the bathroom. He didn't use that either.

I think he is now a believer.

So, why does St. Anthony put one's things in such strange places?

Check inside the refrigerator for the phone.


AnswerGirl said...

The refrigerator is always a good idea -- I have found, at various times, everything from my keys to the book I was reading in there -- but this time around, the phone was under the sofa.

Thanks, St. Anthony!

Anonymous said...

So when you're reading in the refrigerator doesn't it get annoying when the door closes and the light goes out?

Larry Willis
St. Louis

Moira said...

For future reference. Several times I have confused my cordless with my cell phone and put it in my packpack or purse. I once took it to the gym with me. I think I'm remembering the days when cells phones were as big as the cordless handsets -- or I'm just not paying attention.

Judy Clemens said...

Hi Claire! Thanks for reading The Day Will Come. Your question about the plausibility of amateur sleuths is one I struggle with myself, and is why the next book about Stella will also be the last. I don't like reading series that have run their course into complete unbelievability (if that's a word). It's also why in the second book of the series (Three Can Keep a Secret) I didn't have a "fresh" body. My agent wasn't happy, but readers seemed to be fine with it! Thanks again for the review. See you at B'con?h

AnswerGirl said...

Judy, you're so gracious -- and I DO admire the series very much, but I applaud your position on bringing them to an end. Julia Spencer-Fleming also has interesting things to say on this subject, and I believe that her next book will be the last in that series. (Ross or Julia, if you stop by, please confirm or deny?)

As for this year's Bouchercon ... I wish. Maybe this will be tomorrow's question.

Anonymous said...

cnSt. Anthony had me going back to the same spot a fourth time when I just couldn't see something for some reason, I was getting frustrated and I asked him and looked again and it was right there... and I'm not Catholic, spiritual but not religious, if you know what I mean. So, he helps everyone and I'm diggin' that.