Archive for June, 2014

A FRIEND IN A HIGH PLACE

Today is June 13th, the Feast Day of St. Anthony of Padua, a saint who seems to have God’s ear, so to speak.  Born in Portugal, his mission was mostly in Padua, Italy, and Italians have adopted him as one of their own. A mesmerizing preacher who turned throngs of listeners from sin, he’s familiarly known for finding lost objects.

As I’ve said, I believe he helped my husband and me find each other. Not that we were completely lost yet — but we were in our mid-thirties.  My mother-in-law told me  she’d been  beseeching the saint to find a good wife for her bachelor son. At the same time, I was making frequent novenas and visits to the St. Anthony Chapel in New York City’s St. Francis Church to remind him I wanted to marry and have children.

It’s practically impossible for me to lose anything permanently.  And this phenomenon goes back to 1960 when I began work in the New York office of Dr. Thomas Anthony Dooley’s MEDICO, his medical mission to Laos, as secretary to his brother Malcolm, then in charge of fundraising.  Dr. Tom, a former Navy doctor, was a well-known, charismatic promoter of this humanitarian project,  but a year later, at 33 years of age, was afflicted with a fatal form of melanoma and a patient in Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital.

A volunteer had brought a St. Anthony relic  to MEDICO’s office, and Malcolm asked me to lock it in my desk that night until he could bring it to Tom.  Before I did, I held the glass case in both hands and prayed about a troubling  problem of my own.  My prayer was answered soon.  But Dr. Tom, weak and heavily sedated, and still trying  to guide MEDICO with phone calls from his bed, died the next day.  There’s a lot more to tell about this extraordinary man and all that happened then, but that’s for another time.

Some of my lost and found experiences: My mother had given me a silver St. Anthony medal, blessed by Pope John XXIII, which I sadly lost.  Two years later, my two-year-old son (middle name Anthony) found it in our backyard. I lost it several years ago at an inn where Honey and I stayed in Pittsburgh — found in my room and returned.  Lost it again the next year, and hope someone found it who needs it more than I do now. I know it wasn’t the medal that protected me.

On the night before a cousins’ reunion at my Oceanside co-op, my daughter-in-law noticed the diamond was missing from my engagement ring. I was upset, but not as much as I thought I’d be.   My generous husband had spent his savings on the ring and our Ireland honeymoon, and I’d enjoyed wearing it for a long time.  Never had it insured!

I wouldn’t know where to begin to look — had been everywhere that week, shopping and getting ready for the party.  But my son insisted on searching the community room and my apartment, shining a  flashlight in every likely and unlikely place. I told him to give up — we were tired and wanted to go to bed. But he shined a beam through the narrow opening between my sofa bed back and mattress — ready for him and his wife —  and there was the diamond on the floor.

I had it reset  and  insured. And the diamond fell out again several weeks later.  The insurance company would never believe me, I thought.  So I didn’t file a claim right away. The ring meant more to me as a sign of love and commitment — though the diamond had  incredibly increased nine times in value since 1970 — and I’d definitely appreciate the money.  About a month after that, coming home after a heavy rain, I happened to glance down and saw the diamond on the wet sidewalk —  in  front  of  my welcome mat. It could have washed down to the drain at the curb.

A few days ago, after buying impatiens and potting soil at Home Depot, packing them and Angel into the car, I stopped for some  yogurt.  No money — I’d left my wallet in the shopping basket.  Sending up a quick prayer, I returned — and a wonderful person had turned it in with nothing missing.  Thank you, whoever you are.  I wish I could have rewarded you.  But in thanksgiving for things found, I always give a donation to the poor, a special concern of St. Anthony’s in his lifetime. And I believe there’s more here than can be attributed to coincidence or serendipity.    .

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