the holiness of simple things or where is my green shirt?

Every faith and every time has its saints, its own definition of what makes a person holy or sanctified, whether or not the word "saint" is used. Saints can be endowed with super-powers, they can appear and disappear, they can exist without food, they can glow in the dark, turn up to be helpful in small frustrating situations or in situations of great danger. On the other hand, it's not easy to be a saint or a holy person. It sometimes helps if you live in a situation where the living conditions are so terrible that just being kind, unselfish and helpful is not the norm, although there is always the risk that by being unusual, you could be considered a danger to the community.

Or you could hear voices (schizophrenic or savior of her country?), or go without food or drink for inconvenient periods (fitting model, bad-tempered anorexic, or savior of her Church?), or sit under a tree and think beautiful thoughts (example of holiness and peace or chronic underachiever?). Even where the exact term "saint" doesn't exist in a particular faith or sect, there are those whose lives, or whose deaths, are examples - those who share food, who step between a patriot and certain death, whose life is a story of generosity and holiness and he's so holy he doesn't even know it.

I never aspired to martyrdom by torture. Sorry, but if I have to die for something, make it quick and painless, and let me be sure that I've had my roots done recently for the benefit of the admiring faithful.

 I had a lot of exposure to tales of saints and scholars, growing up in what's now (but for how much longer? language mutates constantly!) called a multi-cultural household. Our parents encouraged us to accept every holiday invitation that came along, so that the customs of others would not be strange to us.

If I were asked to update the Calendar of Saints, or the List of Holy Persons of Your Completely Free Choice Because So Far We Still Live in A Free Country, I would focus on venerating those who smooth the path of the ordinary person through an ordinary day, thus making it possible for the ordinary to reach for the extraordinary. For example, there ought to be a saint who makes parking spaces appear. Not constantly, that would be chaotic, but I bet that a mom of 3 who needs to stop on the way home from school pick-up to get the supplies for the next morning's stupid project would feel blessed if she could park right in front of the crafts store.

And the dreary days of February need their own saint, the one who stops you when in boredom and desperation you decide you'd look better with some more streaks of different-colored light and dark blonde here and here. Or with bangs. Especially with bangs.

How about  --  a saint who'll cause a markdown of a dress in my size to turn up on a rack I thought I'd already checked, for  that sudden "command performance" occasion when the essential component of the other appropriate and already owned outfit has popped a hole or is at the cleaner's.

In The Once and Future King, the boy King Arthur learns that a soldier's most important weapon is his feet. Tales of trench foot from the horror that was World War One bear this out. Anecdotes drift back from Eye-Raq. So there are already patron saints for those who suffer from diseases of the foot, and for shoemakers and bootmakers. But maybe somewhere, more prosaic, more "little," could there be a saint who makes cute shoes fit just a little narrow-er for those of us who find no comfort in being told we have "aristocratic" feet?

Now that I don't wear the overpriced socks that cued my high school classmates into "degree of cool," I don't feel a desperate need for a patron saint of the unmatched socks. But those of you with small children might just, when standing over a bushel of same, feel that a small quick miracle would be convenient.

Sometimes a saint who is reknowned for something in one faith or culture turns up with a different name, same helpful attributes and powers, in other faiths, other cultures, other lands. I'm thinking of He Who Opens Doors.

But if I had to bet, I'd say that the saint most often invoked, in all his forms, by all his names and avatars, is the Finder of Lost Objects. Madly going through old magazines for a picture of doesn't matter, I said to my friend Raisa that I was giving up. Oh, not yet, try this, she said, and, closing her eyes, recited a charm in Hebrew.

Or, she said, if that doesn't work, this one always does:

Good Saint Anthony
Please come 'round
Something's lost
And must be found.

What "saints" could smooth your path ? What power/attribute would you like to have? And, oh, yes, has our friend Saint Anthony helped you?


  1. He hasn't helped me yet but I didn't the charm! I just wrote it down, I'll get my daughter to recite it when she is looking for the next thing she loses track of. She's a little scattered, much like her father.
    I love to read about Saints. If I could choose a magic saintly power it would be to feed the starving, hunger is such a misery in our world.
    You've inspired me to get out my Saint books, and good timing too as we are back to Church (and Sunday School) this weekend.
    Thanks for the lovely post Fred.

  2. Hello:
    And having established your latter day saints, what attributes do you propose to give them that they may, as in paintings of the past, be recognized by those who wish to invoke good things of them? Clearly they will no longer be the subject of religious art, rather perhaps appearing within the pages of 'Hello' magazine which is, we understand from a headline seen this week is to go 'up market' and no longer concern itself with a celebrity culture. Enter the saints!!

  3. Hi, Dani, it continue to amaze me about how many of the early stories of saints ant holy experience relate to food, whether by miraculous provision or by denial. Shows you where priorities were in olden times - well, food and uglifying diseases.

  4. Hello, Hattatts. I will begin with a capsule description of the life and works of Saint Darren the Parker. An early interest in automotive parts brought him to the attention of a kindly parole officer, who showed him how his talent for noticing which cars were or we're not transiently parked, could've turned to beneficial use, I.e., tips from grateful folk in a hurry. The attribute most commonly depicted is a sign reading OI! OVER 'ERE! which he holds in his right hand whilst beckoning urgently with his left.

    1. oops, that's were not we're. autocorrect strikes again.

  5. Oh yes, I know Saint Anthony very well. I have suggested him to my husband but he insists I can be of more help. Before responding to his requests I ask whether he has really looked, or just "man looked". Usually it is the latter and a few seconds is all it takes to procure the "lost" item. Well, a few seconds and a derisive look from me. Seems more like a problem with laziness than lost items. Is there a saint for that?

    1. Man looked! Love that. I call it selective incompetence.

  6. hi, xoxo, there are women saints renowned for their patience with spouses, but no one should have to put up with what they suffered before their prayers worked. I suggest getting some of those placard holders that show you the table numbers at weddings, substituting cards that read OVER HERE, and having one ready to drop at all tImes. And yes, Himself has Functional Thing-Blindness too. I tell him I am grinding the enamel off my teeth and fixing that will be very costly. This hasn't worked either. So Saint Ant' is on regular retainer in our house. Maybe he likes the food.

  7. Ah - St Anthony must be related to the faeries - I always ask them to return the things they have stolen and they work a charm!

    I am not catholic and am not familiar with the saints, but I think I would like a patron saint of impatience - my worst personality flaw, sigh....

  8. hi, Wendy, I don't think St. Ant' hides things first, which was always my understanding of how it worked with the wee folk. and BTW I just found my ATM card which went missing Tuesday, so I recommend studying up on those saints. Not that I need to grow a beard to prevent an unwanted marriage, but still...

  9. I like the idea of St Francis; wonder what he was really about? He could roam here and talk with the blue herons. I always felt as a Protestant that our religion was so plain.

  10. I was going to say something cute about babies and bathwater, but I'm a pacifist at heart.

    1. When I lost my engagement ring for a month last summer, many friends told me to pray to St. Anthony, and many people told me to place an open pair of scissors up high on a shelf. Which worked, the scissors or the prayers? I don't know, but next mishap, I'll try both!

    2. open scissors? new to me, but sounds worth trying! Next post regales the hapless reader with the trouble that started with an ATM card that played hide-and-seek.


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