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August 18, 2003
Vol. 1, No. 93




global perspective Out on a spiritual limb

By Arthur Jones, NCR editor at large

It's quite simple. There are only two types of Catholics, those who believe St. Anthony finds lost items, and those who don't. I do. My wife is skeptical; I believe.

Don't laugh, there's a crisis of faith going on here.

Forty-two years ago, eve of our wedding, a relative of my wife-to-be's said: "What's your silver pattern?" I howled with laughter, we didn't even have matching cups and saucers to bring from our separate apartments to our soon-to-be love nest.

The relative persisted. On a lark we went and picked a pattern. The relative said, "You picked a very expensive pattern!" Such glee. We got two place settings at $100 a pop when $100 was good take-home pay at the end of the week for the average worker or a reporter on the night shift.

Four decades later they still cost about $100 a place setting because the price of silver is much lower. Same pattern. We never added to them, but we use them nightly. Pfaltzscraft plates and two grand silver knives and forks.

Until last week.

We'd had soup and salad. The table was cleared and the dishes and silverware made it the four-and-a-half-feet from the table to the sink. When the dishes were done, one fork was missing. It wasn't in the under-sink garbage -- we spread it out on a tarpaulin and looked. It wasn't carried out with the newspapers to the recycle bin -- it was searched.

Wasn't tossed in the compost bin with the bad bits of the spinach after we'd washed it for salad (do you think farmers employ a person specifically to spray dirt on spinach before they send it to the grocery store?).

"Calling St. Anthony!" My Anthony (we're related -- he's my confirmation name saint) is a plastic saint who dates back to the time automobiles had metal dashboards. He once had a magnet. He's old and chipped but he's always performed on cue.

Not on this darned fork.

So I'm out on a spiritual limb with She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed because I've always sworn by St. Anthony's efficacy and never accepted that if you just keep looking things turn up without him anyway.

I pick up the statue and try to catch his eye but he seems to look away.

We do very well of an evening without the fork. We've old 1920s bone-handled ones the color of faded ivory piano keys brought from my old bachelor pad.

So it isn't the silver fork, it's the principle of the darn thing. And Anthony, I no longer care if you locate it for us. But please whisper in my sleep how it got out of the house.

Meanwhile, the pragmatic She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed simply went online and for $22 found its replacement, lest the relatives who bought it turn up for dinner and see it missing.

Arthur's Daily Ditty
In you, plastic saint, a believer I am,
-- In you, St. Anthony of Padua,
Yet you've left me in an awful jam
And I don't want to say: what a cadua.

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