I think that it was when I was in grade school that I got my first holy card. It was a picture of St. Joseph with a prayer that could be said during summer vacation. I don't recall praying it, but I did save that card in my missal. Thus began a collection that has grown into boxes of thousands of holy cards. You can tell the popularity of certain saints by how full their envelopes are and today's saint--Anthony of Padua--could use a second envelope for all the cards of him that I've acquired.
St. Anthony wasn't actually born in Padua, Italy, but in Lisbon, Portugal and a few years ago, while on a pilgrimage to Fatima with Mater Dei Tours, I was able to visit his birth place over which a church has been built. When he was fifteen Anthony entered the Augustinian monastery near Lisbon. Ten years later, after hearing about the martyrdom of several Franciscans in North Africa, he transferred to that religious order so that he might follow in their footsteps. Poor health forced him to leave North Africa and bad weather forced his ship off course. Landing in Italy, he made his way to Assisi where he was ordained and appointed by St. Francis himself to teach the other friars and to preach. He died when he was 36 in the year 1231 and was canonized less than a year later.
Most people know St. Anthony as the saint whose intercession is sought in order to find lost articles and a number of rhyming prayers have developed over the years, including:
St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come down. Something's lost and can't be found.
Dear St. Anthony, I pray, bring it back without delay.
Something's lost and can't be found. Please St. Anthony, look around.
How is it that St. Anthony came to be the intercessor for finding what's lost? It seems that a novice in his community once ran off with a valuable manuscript that Anthony used for his prayer and preaching. Anthony prayed for its safe return and soon the novice returned shaking in fear and telling the story that as he was fleeing he encountered a frightening apparition that stopped him and made him so afraid that he came back.
One of the holy cards I have is called "Litany of the Lost." On this feast (and why not on other days as well?) let's turn to St. Anthony to intercede with us for all who are lost in any way with part of that Litany:
For those of us who have lost our health ... our peace of mind ... our housing ... our financial security ... St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost a loved one ... our dreams ... our talents ... our initial zeal ... our sobriety ... St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost peace within our families ... civil peace ... our trust in others ... our virtue ... our home ... St. Anthony, pray for us.
Let us pray: All loving God, you have given us St. Anthony, the patron of the lost, as an intercessor of those who are in need of your mercy. Listen to his voice as he calls out to you on our behalf and grant those things which will help us grow in your love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.