Biff America: Saint Anthony, lost boards and divine intervention
“St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around; something is lost and it can’t be found.”
I bet I’ve said that poem/prayer a thousand times over the years as I searched for everything, from jack knives to car keys, wallets and cell phones. To quote the movie “Anchorman,” “They’ve done studies. Sixty percent of the time, it works every time.”
But you can’t just say it once and expect St. Tony to come through. You need to repeat it, over and over, like a mantra, while you look for what is lost. The problem is, if you do it in public, in the parlance of my Boston upbringing, you can appear “wicked mental.” I once lost my car keys in a grocery store. For the next 15 minutes, I walked up and down the aisles mumbling, “St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around; something is lost and it can’t be found,” until the manager told me I was freaking out the other customers and asked me to leave. I think he was a Lutheran.
Though I can no longer claim to be a practicing Catholic, I still use the St. Anthony prayer when I look for lost items. And again, I would say some of the time it works every time.
That is why I was not at all surprised when Karen told me her ski, lost five months ago near the top of a local peak, was found with the help of St. Anthony. We were standing in her front yard when she gave me the good news. My non-Catholic mate, along with her hubby, were shocked when we both sang out in unison, “St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around , something is lost and it can’t be found.”
Karen was skiing above tree line in March when her ski released, slid down the slope and was buried. You can imagine that with the choice of either finding it or skiing down on one leg, she chose to search. After more than an hour, she gave up and made her way down. Over the ensuing months, she went back several times and enlisted the help of friends both before and after the snow melted, all to no avail.
Did I mention that the ski she lost belonged to her husband? No wonder she sought divine intervention.
Last week, she once again climbed to the basin below the ridgeline and came up empty-handed. She searched in the general vicinity where she thought her ski might be, but this time, she said over and over, “St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around; something is lost and it can’t be found.” Five minutes later, she got a text from Rock Perry, who (unbeknownst to her) was standing on that same mountain, but about a thousand feet higher, informing her that he had just found her ski.
‘We would have to Invent Him’
The cynic in me has to believe that if God, Buddha, St. Anthony, Zeus, etc., were going to intercede in the day-to-day human experience, they would cure children with cancer rather than direct Rock to find Karen’s ski. But there is something comforting in the belief of a higher power looking out for us. Voltaire said, “If there were no God, we would have to invent him.”
Though I never was a particularly devote Catholic while growing up, I will occasionally get a “Rain Man” — like recollection of religious dogma learned as a young boy. For instance, I remember that St. Anthony got tired of being heckled while he was street preaching, so he went to the beach and preached to the fish. Legend has it that thousands of fish came near the shore and just hung out to hear him give a sermon. I’m guessing for many, seafood was on the menu that night.
We Papists were taught that ours was the one and only true religion and that all others —Methodist, Lutheran, Judaism — though well-meaning, were simply Catholic-lite. We were also taught that the Pope was infallible, women can’t be priests and impure thoughts and self-gratification that is not confessed is a mortal sin and could land you in Hell. (And my friends wondered why I was so high strung as a youngster.)
Compassion, Kindness, Acceptance
I’ve come to believe that none of that stuff is true. Certainly, it is convenient to selectively believe or disregard certain aspects of various faiths to suit your needs and inclinations — “All lies and jest, still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” There are many tenants of the faith of my birth that I would be a better person if I could live by — compassion, kindness and acceptance.
In truth, you don’t need to be raised Catholic to live by those principles. But you do if you want to find your lost skis. If you don’t believe me ask the Pope; he’s infallible. And Karen will back him up.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.