A picture appeared on Facebook showing St. Anthony of Padua saying “Seriously? You lost them again?” As the patron of lost things, this saint is possibly the one most prayed to other than our Blessed Mother. How did he acquire this reputation? According to a legend, St. Anthony, as the novice director for the Franciscans, taught the novices about the psalms. His book of psalms was marked with his class notes. One day a novice decided to leave the community and took with him St. Anthony’s psalter. Naturally, St. Anthony was distressed and prayed for the return of the novice and his valuable book. The novice came back, repentant, and returned the psalter.
To retrieve lost items, people resort to various customs. A friend (Sister Jeanne Mary Nieminen) always prays the Creed. Others turn to a deceased parent. Our Muslim brothers and sisters go directly to God as in this lovely prayer:
O Allah, the One who returns the lost, by Your power and awe return what I have lost, for surely I have received it as Your gift and favor (boon). (Hisnul Hasin)
Prayers are in order for “lost” things other than keys, books, and important papers: a person who is lost physically or spiritually (a lost sheep), a lost job, a lost pet, a lost sense of God’s presence, and so forth.
A time-honored practice is to appeal to St. Anthony, known as the Wonderworker, with this jingle:
St. Anthony, St. Anthony,
Please come down.
Something is lost
And can’t be found.
Those who are on a more familiar basis with the saint might pray this:
Tony, Tony, look around.
Something’s lost that now must be found.
Here is a longer prayer to St. Anthony:
Saint Anthony, perfect imitator of Jesus, who received from God the special power of restoring lost things, grant that I may find (mention your petition) which has been lost. As least restore to me peace and tranquility of mind, the loss of which has afflicted me even more than my material loss. To this favor I ask another of you: that I may always remain in possession of the true good that is God. Let me rather lose all things than lose God, my supreme good. Let me never suffer the loss of my greatest treasure, eternal life with God. Amen.
Furthermore, it’s only good etiquette to thank the saint for his help. One practice for showing your gratitude is to donate food to the poor. This custom is known as giving St. Anthony’s Bread. Otherwise, or in addition, we can pray this prayer:
Most loving protector, St. Anthony, what gift can I give you in exchange to show my heartfelt gratitude? With your continued help I will show appreciation to you by being more faithful to God, more constant in prayer, and readier to do good to those nearest me. I praise you for the esteem in which your name is held throughout the world, for the miracles and wonders with which you have filled the Church, and for the many benefits mankind continues to receive through your gracious help. May these intentions convey my great thanks to the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and to our Blessed Lady, Queen of heaven and earth.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be…
Of course, one of the best strategies to find a lost item is to get up and look for it. I used to advise my students, “Look under your bed.”
St. Anthony is also the patron saint of travelers, so if you are waiting for a loved one to return home—for example, from military service, or a business trip, or college—you might keep an image of St. Anthony in your house and pray to him daily that your loved one returns home safely. You could give that person a blessed medal or statue of St. Anthony to take with them.
Images of St. Anthony are full of symbolism. A lily stands for his purity and innocence. A child is usually with him whose presence is explained by a legend. Purportedly, a Count Tiso had provided a hermitage for the friar where Anthony often prayed. One night, Jesus appeared to Anthony in the form of a child there, and the cell filled with light. Passing by the hermitage, the count saw the light and discovered St. Anthony holding and communicating with the infant. Sometimes a book is included, indicating that St. Anthony, known for his preaching, was declared a Doctor of the Church, an expert in theology.
When have you found a lost article? What strategy did you use to get it back?
P.S. Tomorrow I leave for Chicago, and I couldn’t find my little camera. After searching the house for two days, as I opened a drawer I had already looked in, I said,”St. Anthony, I just wrote a blog about you. Please help.” Just like that, there was my camera in the back of the drawer!