On the Feast Day of St. Anthony of Padua, patron saint of lost items, Kerry Trotter reflects on the increased frequency with which she could his help.
Mondays aren’t normally my sharpest days.
But this one hit an all-time dull.
I had just hoisted my daughter from her booster seat, fresh off a mac-and-cheese lunch, and was gearing up for that delightfully contented hour of play before naptime. She was happy, I was happy, and we were simply reveling in our togetherness when the serpentine unease of a forgotten thought slithered into my head.
You know, the thought that should have slithered in hours earlier but was suspended in the muck of my brain matter, clogged with so many work deadlines and Elmo songs.
I was supposed to have lunch with a friend today. In fact, an hour before.
I had completely—I mean, completely—forgotten about it.
Panicked, I leaped to my feet and ran to the computer. An email waited.
“I’m here at the restaurant…did I get the day wrong? Are you and June ok?”
Without taking a minute to craft the perfect excuse (car trouble, dead phone, sick baby all would have sufficed), I picked up the phone and called her.
“I (bleeping) forgot. I just completely (bleeping) forgot. I am so, so sorry.”
Luckily, I was dealing with a very understanding woman who then shared a recent story of her own embarrassing gaffe of (work-related) forgetfulness. Nevertheless, it was another tick mark on an increasingly long list of boneheaded, hamfisted, dunce-capped errors and omissions I’ve watched myself stumble through in the last couple of years.
Ladies and gentlemen, behold “mommy brain.”
Ok, I get it. A pregnant woman or new mom has a heck of a lot more on her plate (and that’s not just fried chicken) than was present pre-baby, and the list of concerns, routines and milestones is ever-expanding, while the little hard drive in our heads remains the same old size. But I thought our brains were these undulating masses of growing storage, that the more you packed in there, the more space became available—like a synapse-firing clown car.
Oh, how wrong I was.
Alas, I’ve reached my capacity. Bye-bye, doctor’s appointment times, stroller carelessly left somewhere in downtown Madison, Wisc., and plot and author of every book I’ve ever read. Hello, encyclopedic knowledge of foods that makes my daughter gassy.
Parents forgo a lot for their kids. Time, energy, regular haircuts, disposable income—I was expecting (and embracing) all of that. But my memory, what was once a steel trap full of song lyrics, friends’ birthdays and outfits worn at seemingly unimportant moments of my life, has been reduced to a echo-y cavern of its former self. A couple of dusty items are rolling around in there, but like those little dime store games where you manipulate the board to get the marbles into an opening in the center, I’m just a few tilts away from those last vivid memories disappearing down a black hole.
Clearly, I’m being a little dramatic. This is a harmless trend toward forgetfulness, a byproduct of a much more beautiful development, but it’s been an adjustment. I’ve had to get used to being spacey, to losing things, to sidling up the grocery checkout with a cart full of food and no wallet. So be it.
But given my job in Catholic Adventure Land (as we affectionately call it), I learned that today is the feast day of Saint Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost items.
Like my mind, I thought.
St. Anthony, a Portuguese Franciscan known for his (in an ironic twist) incredible memory, was a gifted and powerful speaker. He had a big voice to match his big brain, and was often tapped by his fellow friars to orate on matters of Christ, morality and heresy. He performed a number of miracles, including one (and this especially piqued my interest) where a broken glass and an emptied wine barrel belonging to a poor woman hosting St. Anthony and a companion were restored anew thanks to his prayers. But that is certainly not to jokingly diminish his good works, as he is known for his many and famous works of jaw-dropping significance.
Perhaps this is where his patronage derives. When we have lost something, it is presumed gone, offered up due to carelessness or happenstance but likely not to be recovered. It would take a miracle to find these car keys, my daughter’s khaki shorts, the sunblock I just bought. It would take the booming voice of St. Anthony to conjure up my favorite sunglasses I left at a New Hampshire lake two summers ago. It would take the intercession of a saintly power to restore what is, for now, gone. My steel-trap mind. My waistline. My lazy Saturday mornings.
We pray to St. Anthony so we might experience a miracle-by-association, so he might help us dredge up items with which we’ve been forced to part. We pray for a minute or longer so that we might forget the trappings of our faults, and that in the moment we stop looking (and start praying) we often stumble upon an answer.
Sometimes that’s all it takes—to stop looking.
Isn’t that just like a saint to, in a very wise way, prompt us to stop, to slow down, to quit beating ourselves up and just take a moment to step away from it all? St. Anthony is clever, no doubt about it.
And isn’t that just like a saint to urge us to turn to prayer, an entity and power completely outside of ourselves, to find something that we weren’t aware was missing in the first place.
So when I lament the lost glasses, the MIA sunblock, the entering of a room having forgotten the reason why, I remember my daughter.
And I say a prayer of thanks.
Kerry Trotter is the content manager at Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.