Roy Exum: Saint Anthony Comes Home

Friday, December 27, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

It is a small capsule, exactly one inch long and a quarter-inch wide. Oh, mercy, I have swallowed pills bigger than that. But when you pull this particular brass bullet apart, there is a tiny medal Saint, made of some dark metal, nestled inside. Saint Anthony, the patron Saint of lost things, came into my life on Christmas Day.

My sister Ellen is the greatest gift-giver of all time. This year she sent me a cow, three manly-smelling bars of milled soap from Italy, a bottle of some strange medicinal vinegar, and Saint Anthony, who is now going to ride in my pocket from this day forth.

The cow? Yes, a cow named “Roy” is going to Sudan as part of the Heifer Project, a glorious charity that sends everything from chickens and rabbits to camels and water buffalo to poor villages around the world. (My brother Jonathan has a goat bearing his name while my Aunt Martha was duly honored with a sheep!)

It just so happens that some time ago I lost something I still love very much – I think about “it” every Christmas -- and can you imagine my delight Christmas Night as I learned the Saint’s chant: “Tony, Tony! Look around, something’s lost and must be found!” One can also look at the Saint and say, “Dear Saint Anthony I pray, bring (lost item) back without delay.” Then there is the Sicilian version: “Tony, Tony, listen-listen, You better come here ‘cause something’s missin’.”

The best part about my sister’s presents are the letters of explanation that accompany each individual gift. Forget this “To-From” stuff. Ellen really gets into it. She wrote a hysterical letter that accompanied the Heifer Project, including a picture of a grinning African kid with his hands hugging a cow’s face. She even got about a 100 popsicle sticks, and glued together a cage with a toy cow inside that she then gift-wrapped just perfectly.

The vinegar letter was another hoot but today let me share the letter that came with my Saint Anthony – this in the fervent hope you may be similarly inspired to make your future gifts at Christmas come with a zing and belly laughs like Ellen’s do. These are Ellen’s own words:

* * *

“IN THE TRENCHES”

These little containers are called “pocket shrines.” They were popular during World War I and World War II. Soldiers going off to battle discreetly tucked these into their pockets, taking their faith with them to face gosh-knows-who and gosh-knows-where. I would think their faith was about the only familiar thing they had.

I cannot imagine what that must have been like, but I imagine that in all the strangeness, this little shrine was a great solace. I would think that a soldier could touch it in his pocket during the middle of the day; and maybe, if he had a quiet moment for prayer in the middle of the night when everyone else was asleep, he would open it up and direct his hopes and prayer on the tiny saint inside. This could be helpful in the trenches … it just might enable you to survive.

I found this one for you on eBay. I liked that it was flat, like those Zippo lighters you all used to carry. I thought it would be more comfortable in your pocket. I wanted to get you and (brother) Jonathan the same kind. It took a while to find two that matched although the saints are different. The cases were made in France and the little shrine somehow made its way to America. It has been waiting on you for 70 years!

This one comes from Locust Valley, N.Y.; Jonathan’s came from Bel Air, Maryland. I wrote to the sellers, asking for details of where they got them, but never heard anything back. Maybe that’s better – they are more mysterious.

In your item’s description on eBay, the saint inside is Saint Anthony, but having looked over so many months, I can tell you it could just as well be Saint Joseph (patron Saint of Carpenters, craftsmen, pioneers, social justice and people in doubt.)

As Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph is often depicted holding a child. But, then again, so is Saint Anthony (patron Saint of miracles, lost things, the poor and oppressed, and amputees) … or maybe it’s Saint Christopher, the patron Saint of travelers and bringing people home safely. He is usually depicted holding a child too.

I would think that the soldiers caught up in World War II would have wanted any of these Saints by their side, close to their hearts. I’m thinking that you decide which Saint you need the most right now and make that your Saint.

Oh yeah, when the little shrines got here, they were badly tarnished and a little dinged up. I got Brasso and was ready to buff them up but then I decided that the tarnish and the dings were what made them special … their “patina” is part of the story.

I hope you will like this, and that it will help you through your days, your nights, and your own “trenches,” whatever they may be.

Keep the faith! Merry Christmas!! Love, Ellen

* * *

If you have lost something that you love, simply light a candle and say, “Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony: Please come around when {something} is lost and cannot be found. If you find it, give it to me, And oh how happy I will be!”

What a great present. Are you kidding me!

royexum@aol.com


Forgetting Our Presidents' Birthdays

Surely I'm not the only one who noticed today's date this morning and immediately thought, "Hey, it's Abraham Lincoln's birthday!"  Honest Abe was born 207 years ago today--as was Charles Darwin.  When I was a kid in school, Feb. 12 was an annual and much anticipated holiday, Abraham Lincoln's birthday, a no-school day, and we certainly knew and understood who it was ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: About Lions & Elephants

A family of lions is called a ‘pride’ and rightfully so. The boss of the pride is indeed the ‘King of the Jungle’ and he makes all the big decisions, like when they go hunting, who is going to be ‘boyfriend-girlfriend’ and is quick to settle any family quarrels. But, as with all in nature, there comes a day when the King gets too old to rule. His teeth are loose, his gait hampered ... (click for more)

Couple In Small Plane Make Emergency Landing On Highway 27 North Of Dayton

Tom Webb and his fiancée were traveling from Pigeon Forge to Winchester when, at 5,500 feet, they experienced engine trouble. They lost their engine and had to make an emergency landing on Highway 27 north of Dayton. They landed safely and were able to push the plane off the road with help from the Rhea County Sheriff's Department. The incident happened around 7 p.m. on ... (click for more)

Man At Homeless Camp On Chestnut Street Charged With Trying To Set Fire To Another Man

A man at a homeless camp on Chestnut Street has been charged with trying to set fire to another man at the camp. Richard Warren "Trey" Erwin, 40, is charged with aggravated arson. Police were called to the 2200 block of Chestnut at 12:40 a.m. Earlier, Michael Nye and Alisa Buckels had called for an ambulance. They were checked out at Erlanger Hospital for inhalation injuries. ... (click for more)

Red Bank Rolls To Region 2-A/AA Mat Title With Ease

Shane Turner has been waiting a long time for this year's wrestling season to get here. He took over the head coaching job at Red Bank four years ago and his Lions have taken their share of whippings during that time. Turner kept preaching to his kids to stay faithful to the program and to keep working hard and that eventually, good things would come their way. They're ... (click for more)

Bradley Wrestlers Win Region 4-AAA With 7 Champions

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – There was never much doubt about which team would walk away from the Region 4-AAA wrestling tournament with the most individual champs and the overall team title. The Bradley Bears, ranked second in the state all year, have had a great season to this point and it just got a little bit better early Saturday evening at Cleveland Middle School. By claiming ... (click for more)