CATHOLIC PATRON SAINT OF LOST THINGS
There are two Saint Anthonies in the Catholic religion. The first Saint Anthony lived in Egypt from 251-356 and was the founder of monachism.
The second, Saint Anthony of Padua (Italy), lived from 1195-1231. Born in Portugal, he was a Franciscan monk and lived in Morocco before settling in Padua. He was known as an eloquent speaker.
Saint Anthony of Padua is the Patron Saint of Padua, of Portugal, and of San Antonio, Texas. Prayer cards manufactured in Italy identify him as the saint of “miracles,” but to most Catholics, he is the Patron Saint associated with the return of lost articles and missing persons. He is petitioned for help in finding almost everything that is lost, from car keys and misplaced papers to a lost job, a lost lover, or s straying partner. People who are regarded as “lost souls” may also be placed in his care. These widespread invocations to Saint Anthony for finding lost things and restoring missing people relate to an incident in which the saint was invoked to find a missing book and the prayer was efficacious; ever since then Saint Anthony has been the Patron of Lost Things.
Because he traveled widely, Saint Anthony is also appealed to for safe travel, especially when ocean voyages are involved. In Portugal, France, Italy, and Spain, he is much beloved by those who work on the sea, and sailors may keep a statue of him on the mast of their ships. His feast day is June 13th.
Born Fernando Martins de Bulhoes in Lisbon, Portugal, he was the scion of a wealthy and noble family. He entered the Augustinian Abbey of Saint Vincent on the outskirts of Lisbon, where he studied scripture and the Latin classics. In 1219, he met five visiting Franciscan monks who were en route to Morocco to preach to the Muslims there. In February 1220, news arrived that the five Franciscans had been martyred in Morocco. Anthony was moved by their deaths and obtained permission from his superiors to join the Franciscan order and travel to Morocco. He later relocatd to Italy, where he showed great aptitude for preaching. He was eventually commissioned by the Vatican to produce a series of “Sermons for Feast Days.” He died in Padua, Italy on June 13th, 1231. In 1946 he was named a Doctor of the Church, a particular distinction given after canonization by the Roman Catholic church.
On holy cards and in church statuary, Saint Anthony is usually pictured as a young tonsured man holding the Christ Child, and he wears the brown robes of his Franciscan order. The Lily is the flower of Saint Anthony, as it is of all saints whom the Catholic Church declares to have died as virgins. he may also be shown with a book, as befitting his role as Doctor of the Church. Alternatively, he is sometimes depicted as an older, bearded Franciscan monk seated or standing alone, with a book.
Although Saint Anthony of Padua is usually depicted in a brown Franciscan robe, holding the infant Jesus in one hand and a lily in the other, in South America, San Antonio is sometimes dressed in blue with a yellow lily and a red heart. On the 3 1/2 inch tall painted soapstone statuette from Peru shown above, the saint dressed in brown on one side and in blue on the other. Quechua Indian charm vials from Peru containing tiny blue-robed St. Anthony statuettes are carried for the return of a lost lover; they also always contain a piece of the coiled jungle vine called “vuelve vuelve” (“come back, come back” in Spanish).
Saint Anthony is identified with the orishas Ellegua and Ogun in Yoruba-derived religions such as Santeria and Lukumi,
PETITIONING SAINT ANTHONY
In mainstream Catholic practice, prayers for the intercession of Saint Anthony are quite conventional. Folk-Catholics prayers to Saint Anthonym often in rhyme, petition him for the return of lost things or missine persons.
Unfailing Prayer to Saint Anthony
Here is a typical petition, as found on the back of a Saint Anthony holy card:
Unfailing Prayer to Saint Anthony Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints.
O Holy St. Anthony, gentlest of Saints, your love for God
and Charity for His creatures made you worthy, when on
earth, to possess miraculous powers. Miracles waited on
your word, which you were ever ready to speak for those in
trouble or anxiety. Encouraged by this thought, I implore
of you to obtain for me (request). The answer to my prayer
may require a miracle. Even so, you are the saint of
O gentle and loving St. Anthony, whose heart was ever full
of human sympathy, whisper my petition into the ears of the
Sweet Infant Jesus, who loved to be folded in your arms, and
the gratitude of my heart will ever be yours.
Amen. (Say 13 Paters, Aves, and Glorias)
Saint Anthony Prayer from Jamaica
The invocation of Saint Anthony for the return of someone or somthing lost appears in Jamaica as well as in the United States. In 1996, Lewis Erskine wrote to me:
My aunt used to say, when ever something was lost,
St. Anthony, St. Anthony
Please come down
Something is lost
And can’t be found
She is the Philadelphia-born daughter of Jamaicans who came to the States on their honeymoon and never left. They (my grandparents and their children) were members of The (Christian?) Brethren. I used to snicker out loud and wonder to myself about this mild incantation until I tried it one day. I found what I was looking for. That was more than 10 years ago. I continue to call on St. Anthony when I misplace something (which is often). I continue to find what I am looking for. If I am looking for something someone else misplaced, I find it if I call on St. Anthony. I write to you to ask if you have heard this, and if you can enlighten me on any Yoruba or other connection alive in this call for spiritual intervention in daily life.
Saint Anthony Prayer from Chicago
Professor Cunnea (AACDrCnnea@aol.com) contributed another invocation to Saint Anthony:
The one my family knows is different. My mom learned it in in Catholic grammar school on the South Side of Chicago in the 1940s:
Dear St. Anthony, I pray
Bring it back, without delay.
She says it works.
Saint Anthony Prayer from Poland
Marigan O’Malley (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote:
Here is my Babci’s (Polish for grandmother) St. Anthony prayer:
Something’s lost and can’t be found
Please, St. Anthony, look around.
Her mother taught it to her (her mom died of typhoid, i believe, right around the Holocaust). She taught it to my mother and my mother to me!
GIVING THANKS TO SAINT ANTHONY
The most common thanks offerings to Saint Anthony are ex votos and Saint Anthony’s Bread.
An ex voto is a small painting, stamped metal image, wxen image, or written testament to the saint’s successful intervcession. The word “ex voto” means “from my vow” and the vow in question is that if the saint helps your case, you will show the world — in the church — that he did so. The tradition of painting and dating ex votos can be traced back to classical Mediterranean Europe and is foun today wherever Mediterranean Europeans live, including their ex-colonies in the Americas, the Pacific Island, and Africa. Reverse-painted glass ex votos, framed in wood, denerally depict the petitioner at prayer, with the saint appearing overhead, about to grant the boon requested. Here is an example of an ex voto painted in 1773 in which the father of a boy with epilepsy (who shown having a seizure) prays to Saint Anthony of Padua for help. It hands in the Saint Antonius Chapel in Haidlfing, Germany.
Saint Anthony came from Padua, Italy. Painted ex votos are the typical thanks-offerings to Saint Anthony and other saints in the traditions of Italian, Portuguese, French, German, Spanish, Sicilian, Austrian, and Greek Catholic or Orthodox Christians, or those from another European nation. Similar painted ex votos are common in most of Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, and other Spanish colonial nations outside the African Diasporic cultural area.
Generic ex votos depicting persons, animals, items or goods that have been found, healed, restored, or acquired due to a saint’s intercession are sometimes made by casting beeswax into a mould is northern Europe. Similar generic ex votos may be made of thin stamped “tin” metal — especially in Greece, Germany, and Peru. Alternatively, they may be cast in brass and given a wash of silver — a style common in Gerany, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Peru. In Latin America, small stamped and cast metal ex votos are colloquially called “milagros” which means “miracles.”
Public thanks offerings are not always material tokens or objects, such as an ex voto. If the matter in which Saint Anthony helped were small, a monetary donation may be made to the church poor box; if larger, the donation might take the form of funding or helping to fund a purchase for the church itself, such as a statue, re-gilding of the dome, or a baptismal font. If the donor were artistically or crafts-talented, embroidered altar cloths would be suitable offerings, as would cloth garments for the statue of the saint, if his was a clothed statue in that particular church.
In modern Europe — and especially in the English-speaking portions of the Americas — it has become the custom to “magnify the fame” of the saint by publishing his name in a newspaper or, more recently, on the internet. Thus you will see many signature-lines in the Lucky Mojo Forum in which thanks are given to a variety of saints.
Gold-decorated wax candles as tall as a person who was lost and then found or who was healed or restored through a saint’s intercession, were a common sight in European churches during my childhood. Often these special candle offerings were put on display in the chapel of the saint, and they are lit on his annual feast day.
If a saint was petitioned to intervene in a matter that is very serious indeed, a petitioner might promise to name a child for the saint in gratitude for a successful outcome. The child would then become the living ex voto whose very existence provided honour to the saint.
When it comes to the traditions of Saint Anthony specifically, it is important to note that most of the customs outlined above would apply to any saint, but one offering — the giving of Saint Anthony’s Bread — is dedicated to him alone.
Saint Anthony’s Bread is an offering of baked bread, wheat, or flour equal in weight to the person who was lost and has been found, or who was ill and has been restored to health, through the intercession of Saint Anthony. The bread or its equivalent weight in wheat or flour, or its fair-market monetary value, can be directly distributed to the poor by the one whose petition was granted, or it can be donated to a local Catholic charity or a secular food bank or community kitchen for distribution in the name of Saint Anthony.
Because all people, even the most wealthy and secure, may at any moment fall into need, it is the practice in some Catholic churches (especially those named for Saint Anthony) for the priest to bless small loaves of Saint Anthony’s Bread on the annual feast day of Saint Anthony and to distribute them to the parishioners.
In the Afro-Caribbean diasporic traditions of Santeria, Vodoo, Palo, and other syncretic-Catholic religions, it is common to offer alcohol (generally rum) and a cigar to a variety of male saints. This is a generic offering and is not specific to Saint Anthony of Padua.