Do you know the panicked feeling when you cannot find your car keys or have helplessly misplaced your wallet? What do we do in such desperate moments? Well, if you were raised in the Catholic Church, you likely start praying immediately to St. Anthony of Padua!
Every June 13th, the Catholic Church and Franciscan orders worldwide celebrate the feast of St. Anthony, one of the most beloved and popular saints in history. The faithful seek St. Anthony's intercession for a multitude of requests; but, above all else, his aid is sought in finding that which has been lost. People seek the help of St. Anthony for lost items, lost faith and lost people. But why is St. Anthony honored and venerated as a finder of the lost?
According to pious tradition, St. Anthony attained the patronage of lost items due to his own experience with loss.
Initially skeptical of theological studies because he feared it would take his brothers' focus away from prayer, Francis of Assisi finally entrusted the pursuit of studies to Anthony of Padua, a brilliant student and eloquent preacher. Among Anthony's few worldly possessions was a psalter – a book of psalms – which contained many of his own notes and commentaries used in teaching his students.
One day a young Franciscan novice decided to leave the religious life of the hermitage and he stole Anthony's valuable psalter. Upon learning that this irreplaceable book was missing, Anthony immediatly began to pray that it would be found and returned.
Anthony's prayers were answered. Not only did the thieving young novice return Anthony's psalter, but he begged pardon and asked to be readmitted to the religious life. The famous psalter is said to be preserved to this day in the Franciscan friary at Bologna.
It was not long after the death of St. Anthony that people began to seek his intercession in finding their lost articles. So renowned was his assistance in finding misplaced treasures, that one of Anthony's contemporaries, Julian of Speyer, was inspired to compose the following hymn:
“The sea obeys and fetters break;
And lifeless limbs thou dost restore.
While treasure lost are found again;
When young or old thine aid implore.”
The hymn attests that neither the forces of nature nor shackles will hinder St. Anthony’s aid in answering the prayers of anyone who seeks his intercession.