You’d think that by now I’d have learned my lesson. But, no. It’s like there is an alternate meaning to the academic letters that you sometimes see after my name: STL. Although formally those letters stand for Licentiate of Sacred Theology, I believe they actually mean: Slow To Learn.
Over the past few weeks, my mom has gone into the hospital twice. Since I need them so often, I keep all of her cards for insurance, Medicare and ID in a small black wallet in a compartment in my car. That way, they’re always ready to be presented to the medical people who need copies of them. I’m obsessive about always returning that wallet to its special compartment . . . except for last week. I put the wallet in my coat pocket in case the cards were needed. Later, I promptly neglected to return the wallet to its usual spot.
Well, sure enough, a couple of days ago, I needed those cards. When I went to grab that wallet from the car, my hand hit empty space. I remembered then that I’d left the wallet in my coat pocket. I searched every pocket: nothing. I even went through the pockets of coats that I knew I hadn’t worn. Next, I plowed through my backpack, hoping I’d put the wallet there. I found a lot of forgotten treasures, but no wallet. Excavating the kitchen table followed, with the same disappointing results.
On the verge of panic, I remembered my mom’s buddy, Tony. We know him as St. Anthony of Padua, but Mom says she calls on him so much that he’s Tony to her. I did the traditional ditty: “Tony, Tony, turn around. Something’s lost that must be found.” I reassured him that I wasn’t asking for myself, but for his good friend, my mom!
Since the good saint seemed to be taking his sweet time, I got in my car and headed to visit Mom in the hospital. I pulled into a parking spot and, for some reason, reached down to the floor mat. My hand brushed against something between the seat and the console. Yup, there was the “lost” wallet. In case you’re wondering, I’m still thanking Tony for his incredible help.
Maybe it’s because I was an only child and usually had to figure out things on my own, but I keep forgetting a basic lesson: There’s lots of help out there.
I’m reminded of this story about a kayaker named Mark Ashton-Smith, a 33-year-old lecturer at Cambridge University. In southern England off the Isle of Wight, he capsized in treacherous waters. Clinging to his craft and reaching for his cellphone, his first inclination was to call his dad.
It didn’t matter that his father, Alan Pimm-Smith, was training British troops in Dubai, some 3,500 miles away. Without delay, the father relayed his son’s mayday to the Coast Guard installation nearest to his son’s location. It turned out to be less than a mile away. Within 12 minutes, a helicopter rescued the grateful son.
In commenting on this story, the Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos said: “Like this kayaker, when we are in peril, our first impulse should be to call Our Father, the one we trust to help us.” (Adapted from “More Perfect Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion, edited by Craig Brian Larson and Drew Zahn.)
Duh. When I lost that wallet, I relied only on myself to find it. I should have sought God’s help first, through the intercession of St. Anthony. It’s a lesson that I’m slowly, but finally, learning.
And when I’m at a loss to find time to be with my mom, St. Anthony has found some incredible, unofficial saints to help out: most notably, Maxine “the Cake Lady” from my parish and Anita from The Leaven staff. Of course, I can’t forget all of the other “saints” who have popped in to visit, are praying for Mom’s recovery or are the hands-on hospital staff. I’m truly blessed . . . and not alone.
Unfortunately, with all the extra running around these past few weeks, I’m afraid that I’m losing my mind.
But that’s not St. Anthony’s problem. . . . That’s a job for good St. Dymphna!