I love Max Lindenman’s story of St Anthony and the contact lenses. He accurately captures my ambivalent (not to say skeptical) attitude to Catholic practices that rub the wrong way through hair bequeathed to me by 400 years of protestant ancestors – asking St Anthony where you put your car keys, burying a statue of St Joseph in the garden of a house you want to sell, making ornate garments for a statue of the Little Infant of Prague to stave off poverty. Lindenman’s ancestors, though Catholic, shared the prejudices of my own, apparently:
Solid, practical people, all of them — wrung dry of any primitive Celtic genius. In the Old Country, they did not fight Black and Tans; here, they did not fight blacks. They declined to join the Whyos, Westies, Molly Maguires, the Pogues or even the fire department. Their religion was of a similarly bland and respectable sort. Though they sent their children to parochial schools, and managed to produce a nun in every generation, they’d no sooner have begged help from a dead Portuguese friar than danced the limbo at a confirmation party. I won’t say I traced the entire etiology of my revulsion as I sat there, imagining myself writing with my eyeballs pressed against my computer screen. However, I did feel very strongly that praying to St. Anthony would lead me down a dark and treacherous path.
And the prayer he finally composes to ask St Anthony for help is a gem of its type:
“Dear St. Anthony,
I beg by the Rood:
Help find my contacts,
Or, baby, I’m screwed.”