Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I had arrived in London in the Spring of 2008 and was in the process of spending the first day there applying my usual remedy for jet-lag.  Forcing ourselves to stay awake so that our body clocks would re-set my wife, daughter and myself did a little shopping in the Hyde Park area to keep our minds off our great desire to go to bed and sleep.

We took a little respite at the park watching the water birds provide endless entertainment when an awful dread came over me.  My wallet was missing, the wallet in which I had my British pounds, my travel documents, my credit cards and every other important piece of paper a sensible traveler should always have with him.  We had been shopping at various stores so it could have been left at one of them inadvertently or, a mounting fear building, could have been lost somewhere in the streets.  Devastated, I re-traced me steps as best as I remembered them, begging St Anthony for assistance all the while, and went back to every store we had been to while my wife and daughter stayed at the park awaiting my return.  When the last store clerk told me they had not seen any such wallet nor had anyone turned one in I stumbled back slowly, and I mean slowly, back to Hyde Park to relay the terrible news to my family.

My mind was a total chaos, every imaginable bad scenario racing through my tired brain until finally exhaustion made me stop at the stone gateway to the park where I put my head against the stones and prayed again.  I begged Saint Anthony to get me out of this catastrophe.

Near the park entrance was some sort of meeting place for Muslims and I had noticed them going in and out of the building or milling around chattering away in what I assumed to be some Arabic tongue.  They seemed affable with each other as the frequent laughter emanating from their groups attested.  But my mind was swirling with uncertainty and I could not pay attention to them or anyone else.  I raised my head from the stone wall, turned and started the slow walk back to the park bench where my wife and daughter were awaiting.

As I walked back a group of young Muslim men who had emerged from the meeting hall were passing me, and I heard one of them, a man in his late 30s, reciting a group of numbers in broken English.  Those numbers, as I listened in astonishment, were the numbers of my home telephone number.  I swung around to look at him.  He was holding my wallet open as he walked along with his group of friends, reading the identification information I had left inside the wallet with a concerned expression on his face.  I ran up to him and in an overjoyed voice told him that he has found my wallet!.  The man and his companions instantly rejoiced.  He put his arm around me and was trying to say in broken English that he was wondering how he might contact me in order to return the missing article.  I told him that Saint Anthony had heard my prayers and when I said that to him his eyes sparkled and a warm, wide grin appeared on his face, and the faces of the others.  They began saying, "St Anthony!  St Anthony!" with that same jubilation as before.  They must have understood.  When I made a quick sign of the cross they embraced me even more and I do believe if I had stayed with them any longer I would have been invited to their home for an evening meal.  I'm sorry now that I didn't invite them to join me in some refreshment; they would surely have accepted, so happy were they to be of help to me.

We parted company, happy with each other over the entire episode.  When I returned to my wife and daughter Saint Anthony, I hope, heard some more prayers, this time of Thanksgiving.  And we also prayed for these kindhearted young men that the grace of Faith would be given to them with great generosity by the One God Who created them.

St Francis and the Sultan, by Giotto
Reading this tragic yet heart-rending article over at Catholicism.org - about the Moslem professor who was killed by the US-funded ISIS fanatics merely for protecting the Christians in Mosul - is what brought back to my mind the encounter of which I write.

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