Lost Your Keys? Call on St. Anthony!

The intercession of the beloved 13th-century Franciscan is often invoked today when something is lost.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, “St. Anthony of Padua with the Child Jesus,” ca. 1668
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, “St. Anthony of Padua with the Child Jesus,” ca. 1668 (photo: Public Domain)

You’ve lost your keys, or your checkbook, or the book you were reading. You’ve looked under the bed, in the drawer, on the kitchen counter — everywhere! What are you going to do?

Well, pray to Saint Anthony, of course!

St. Anthony of Padua, whose feast is celebrated June 13, was a Catholic priest and Franciscan friar who lived from 1195 to 1231. Born to a wealthy Portuguese family, he became known throughout Portugal and parts of Italy as a commanding orator. (In fact, he was so successful in preaching to heretics that he was given the nickname “Hammer of Heretics.”) Pope Gregory IX, after hearing Anthony preach, called him a “jewel case of the Bible” and directed him to gather his sermons into a book, which came to be called Sermons for Feast Days.

St. Anthony was entrusted by St. Francis of Assisi with the responsibility for training the young seminarians studying for ordination in the Franciscan Order. In fact, he is often considered the greatest preacher of the Middle Ages. But even more than his effective preaching, his intercession is often invoked today when something is lost.


The Finder of Lost Things

The tradition of calling upon St. Anthony when something is lost or stolen can be traced back to an incident that occurred in Bologna. According to legend, Anthony had a psalter (a book of psalms) in which he kept notes and comments he used in teaching his seminarian students. In the days before the printing press, a printed book was expensive and difficult to replace.

Anthony’s psalter was stolen by a novice who left the order and took the book with him. When Anthony realized the book was missing, he prayed that it might be returned or found. Anthony’s prayers were answered. The thief had a change of heart — eventually returning the book and returning to seminary. Today, that psalter is preserved in the Franciscan Friary in Bologna, Italy.

Today, people pray to St. Anthony when they’ve lost their keys or ring or other material goods. They may also pray for someone who has lost faith, or for a lost loved one. The following prayer, titled the “Litany of the Lost,” is from the Franciscan Friars.

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Litany of the Lost

Lord have mercy. (Lord have mercy.)
Christ have mercy. (Christ have mercy.)
Lord have mercy. (Lord have mercy.)

For those of us who have lost our health, St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost our peace of mind, St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost our housing, St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost our financial security, St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost a loved one, St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost our dreams, St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost our talents, St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost our initial zeal, St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost our sobriety, St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost our faith, St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost our self-respect, St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost our perspective, St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost our innocence, St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost our independence, St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost peace within our families, St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost civil peace, St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost our trust in others, St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost our virtue, St. Anthony, pray for us.
For those of us who have lost our home, St. Anthony, pray for us.

(Please add your own particular loss here.)

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Let us pray. All loving God, You have given us St. Anthony, the patron of the lost, as an intercessor of those who are in need of your mercy. Listen to his voice as he calls out to You on our behalf, and grant those things which will help us grow in Your love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Julian of Speyer, a German Franciscan friar who was a contemporary of St. Anthony, was a composer, poet and historian in the 15th century. Julian composed a beautiful hymn about St. Anthony after he was named a saint. In it, he wrote: 

The sea obeys and fetters break,
And lifeless limbs thou dost restore
While treasure lost are found again
When young or old thine aid implore. 

Nothing, Julian wrote, will hinder anyone’s prayers to St. Anthony for a lost object or loved one.

(Want to know more about St. Anthony of Padua, orator, teacher, and finder of lost objects? You may want to check out Saint Anthony: The Wonder-Worker of Padua by Charles Warren Stoddard.)