If you grew up Catholic, and you couldn’t find your homework or your lunchbox or your gym shorts, then you knew what to do. You went straight to St. Anthony, the Patron Saint of Lost Things, whose feast day it is today.
St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) was born in Lisbon, Portugal, into a prosperous noble family. Although his parents arranged for his education at the cathedral school in Lisbon, at fifteen he left the school, against his family’s wishes, to join the followers of St. Augustine outside the city. His friends from Lisbon kept dropping in to visit him, so eventually he transferred to an even more remote priory in order to devote himself to study and prayer without distractions. Not exactly a party guy.
A visit from a group of Franciscans on their way to Morocco who were subsequently martyred there inspired him to join the Franciscan order and head straight for Morocco. (Frankly, such an episode would not motivate my career choice, but that is one reason I am not a saint.) But his Africa-bound vessel went off course and landed instead in Italy. There he was appointed to a remote hermitage.
However, sometime later, on the occasion of an ordination, when told to come forward and speak extemporaneously, he was so eloquent that he was reassigned as a traveling preacher. Much of his time was spent in Padua, so he has come to be associated with that city. As for his position as patron saint of lost things—and also of travelers and watermen—well, perhaps that derives from his having been lost at sea, yet having nevertheless reached his destination, both physically and spiritually, in the end.
So, the next time you misplace those car keys, try this:Something’s lost that can’t be found Please, St. Anthony, look around.
Maybe it will be useful this summer if you’re traveling without GPS.