Friday, October 4, 2019

The Litany of the Lost


From my years of Roman Catholicism, I knew the old folks would tell you to say a prayer to St. Anthony if you lost your keys or the like, but that kitschy view from my childhood really masked a much more powerful view that I hadn't encountered before this afternoon.

More impressive than this bodhisattva-like image is the prayer at the kneeler before it, "The Litany of the Lost"
Lord have mercy.
Christ have Mercy.
Lord have mercy. 
For those of us who have lost ...
(Response after each of the petitions: "St. Anthony, pray for us.")
... our health
... our dreams
... our self-respect
... peace within our families
... our peace of mind
... our talents
... our perspective
... our trust in others
... our housing
... our initial zeal
... our innocence
... our virtue
... our financial security
... our sobriety
... our independence
... our home
... a loved one
... our faith
... civil peace 
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. 
Loving God, you have given us St. Anthony, the patron saint of the lost, as an intercessor for 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.
That is quite a laundry list... A thoughtful reading invites us to a deeper, broader self-examination. I wondered if any one of them could really happen in isolation without cascading into the others. Once we encounter a tear in the fabric of our lives, we can trace it and see how it has spread and how it manifests in different ways. Won't we in time see our loss reflected everywhere around us?

And if we see loss everywhere around us, is it possible that loss is inside us somewhere, waiting to be revealed?

As I reflected there, nearby, confessions were being heard ~ the Sacrament of Reconciliation ~ wherein the faithful speak with another intercessor to unburden their souls and to restore their lost relationships with God, family, community ~ with the church as a whole.

For some, Hell is described in terms of a soul's distance from God, where sin is what generates the separation. Suddenly, from moment to moment and in every circumstance, we are burning in Hell. Can you find your way back?

Sitting in the garden, I saw a broken tree branch on the ground. No amount of effort on my part would unbreak the branch or reattach it to the tree. Some may deal with this by declaring there is no branch, no break in the branch, and no tree from which the branch fell. Seeing your despair, a stranger might sit on the makeshift bench beside you and and ask what is troubling you. The groundskeeper may interrupt, seeing pieces of a new garden's edge, and ask you both to move so she can drag them off. Regardless, if you can't find your way to restore what is lost, wouldn't it be nice to know that there is someone you can trust to handle the situation for you?

If we don't deny the possibility, we may find grace again.