Through our house, blame flows like a winding river. It starts at the top, slowly and contemplatively with my beautiful, devout wife Erin and me, who, after careful reflection, will generally lay an even mist of guilt over our three oldest children (because if they weren’t responsible for this particular crime, odds are strong they were responsible for the previous or will be responsible for the inevitable next). But from there, this river of denial takes dramatic turns and quickly picks up speed, always flowing downhill according to age.
So whenever something in our house goes missing, this unfortunate truth leaves poor, defenseless Dominic, our 10-month-old, standing in a constant puddle of blame.
I say constant because, in our house, something is always missing.
In recent weeks, there have been two items of great importance that were lost within days of each other: my cellphone and $200 in gas scrip (gift cards) bought through the kids’ school.
So, as always, after gently and politely inquiring about their whereabouts from our children, who, in turn, threw each other under the bus, we turned to our beloved St. Anthony. Because his intercession is invoked so often in our home, our interaction with him, at first, is very casual: “St. Anthony, it’s me … again. Thanks so much for helping me find Jacob’s lost shoe for the hundredth time the other day. But I could use another favor …”
After whispering these prayers several times over the course of a couple of days, it became clear that we needed to redouble our efforts. So we dug through our prayer drawer (yes, we have a prayer drawer; it is full of the rosaries we try to use often and the prayer books and other devotionals we do not). Toward the back of the drawer, along with the Advent reflections we never got around to reading, we found the book we were looking for: “The Church’s Most Powerful Novenas” (OSV, $14.95 … I am a company man).
That night, looking to be rewarded for our commitment and devotion, we started the novena to St. Anthony.
“Most holy St. Anthony, beloved friend of Jesus, I place myself in your heavenly care. Be with me, especially in life’s troubles and difficulties. Interceded before the Lord for me, so that I may confidently know I do not face my problems alone …”
It is a beautiful prayer, but as we are too often reminded, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. And so we would get a handful of days into our novena before the weekend would come, when our family is occasionally known to fall asleep on couches or chairs or laps before saying our prayers.
Two or three times, we would cycle back to the first day. But in an ironic and embarrassing twist — one that we are certain could only happen in our house — something else went missing.
We lost the novena book.
Scratch that. We didn’t lose anything. The blame, again, fell at Dominic’s feet, as the household formed a consensus that, as is his M.O., he stole the novena book off of our end table and stashed it somewhere no higher than 2 feet from the floor.
Undeterred, a new novena was found online, and tonight is Day 9. So we will wrap up praying this novena to St. Anthony, asking him to place our petitions before God.
The gas cards are still missing. So is, shamefully, the novena book.
As for my cellphone? Amid the stops and starts to our novena, St. Anthony helped Erin find it on top of the messy bookshelf in the kids’ messy playroom.
We have yet to discover how Dominic reached that high.
Scott Warden is the associate editor of OSV Newsweekly. Follow him on Twitter @Scott_OSV.
For more of Scott's Confessions of a Catholic Dad, click here.