O, Saint Anthony

I lost my rings yesterday. Or maybe Sunday. All I know is that when I went to put them on Monday morning, they weren't on the dresser with my watch. Neither were they on the windowsill, or on my nightstand, or any of the other places they frequent.

I knew immediately that I wasn't going to find them.

It was only a matter of time. They didn't fit properly, at least not in the Midwest, where the size of my fingers fluctuates with the weather. I'd already lost and replaced my engagement ring once. I'm lucky they are reasonably replaced. Silver and amethyst are cheap, relatively speaking.

Still, I've missed my original engagement ring. I miss the tiny grain of sand that got embedded in the filigree on the day Ben and I went to the beach in Cape Cod.

And now they have both vanished. The replica engagement ring, the wedding ring that was blessed at the altar nearly eleven years ago. Poof.

Yesterday was a bad day. I was just about to leave work to pick the girls up for Juliette's ballet class when I heard about the tornado. I got caught up for a few moments, checking the news and following the comment threads on my Oklahoman friends' Facebook feeds. By the time I got home there were just minutes to spare, and Juliette was in the midst of a huge temper tantrum, and all four of us were upset and frustrated and it all added up to one of the most unpleasant episodes in recent Pershey family history.

I told some friends about my rings this morning. I was feeling sorry for myself. It's been a rough year. Not a catastrophic year. More like a one-thing-after-another year: anxious and expensive and wearying, with plenty of lovely moments in between the plumbing and medical emergencies. I didn't need to lose my rings, you know? I needed them to just be on the windowsill, and then to slip back on my fourth finger where they belong. But like I said: they're gone.

One of my friends suggested praying to Saint Anthony, and sent me this prayer:

Dear Saint Anthony,
you are the patron of the poor
and the helper of all who seek lost articles.
Help me find the object I have lost
so that I will be able to make better use of time
I will gain for God's greater honor and glory.
Grant your gracious aid to all people
who seek what they have lost-
especially those who seek to regain God's grace.

As wildly superstitious as I can be, I rarely cross my superstitions with my faith. And there's something about this prayer that feels like superstition. 

But I started to pray it anyway. For the heck of it, I guess. What can it hurt? But midway through I just stopped cold. I couldn't pray it. Not when on the same day I lost my rings so many people lost everything.

Many people have shared that tear-jerker of a clip in which an elderly woman being interviewed at the site of her demolished home is suddenly and unexpectedly reunited with her dog. She'd presumed it dead, but someone off-camera noticed movement in the rubble, and the woman pried her terrified pet out of the mess. She was overjoyed, almost speechless. And then she said something about how she thought God had only answered one prayer - sparing her own life - but he'd answered two. 

Even through my tears I cringed. I want to give people the space to interpret the world according to their own theological frameworks, even if their believes differ from mine. If it comforts you to tell yourself that everything happens for a reason, well, good. I can't reconcile that phrase in my own life, but I'll honor that it works for you. So when that woman talked about God answering her two prayers I wanted to let it be, but I immediately thought of the people whose prayers were not answered. What does it mean for a prayer to be "answered," anyway? 

I am fairly sure the thought I had when I was praying that prayer of Saint Anthony is bad theology. But nevertheless: I had the passing, irrational thought that I could make a trade. I'll allow my beloved rings to be sucked into oblivion, forever gone, forever associated with The Day There Was That Horrible Tornado in Oklahoma and Juliette Lost Her Mind Before Ballet, if somebody else who is seeking something lost - something with flesh and blood and please, dear God, still a beating heart - can receive God and Saint Anthony's aid and be reunited. Can we cut a deal, Saint Anthony?

I'll let you know if they turn up.

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