Stefanie Preissner: I’ve lost my passport but St Anthony is on the case — for a fee

St Anthony and I had been on the rocks for a while before I realised I’d lost my passport. I don’t lose things. I don’t keep unnecessary stuff or hoard things. I am overwhelmed by visual clutter so my house is fairly minimal — at least, it was before I had a baby. I donate things, but I never lose things. I’ve never lost keys, a wallet, a phone.

It’s safe to say the only things I’ve lost are my balance, my patience and my virginity. You’ll forgive my level of upset, then, at realising my passport is missing. I’ve just moved house too. We used an amazing service that came into the house, packed up everything, literally emptying drawers, and transported it all to the new house. The sheen of the service that was meant to take a load off my mind and a job off my hands was slightly tarnished by the fact that I have had to go through every single drawer, pocket, and box in search of the missing passport.

Dublin Airport has an amazing service for autistic people. If you apply to them, furnishing them with your psychological report confirming an autism diagnosis, they give you a lanyard and wristband that say ‘important flyer’. Arriving at the airport, all staff recognise the lanyard and you are swept through the terminal without having to queue, therefore removing the stress that airports can bring with their noise and crowds and general overwhelm.

I always carry my passport and lanyard together in a specific travel pouch. I needed my passport for a banking application and when I went to put my hand on it, the lanyard was in the pouch but the passport was not.

I’m aware this isn’t as engaging a mystery as what happened on the Mary Celeste, or the fate of Amelia Earhart. No one is going to make a chart-topping podcast about the case of the missing passport, but it remains an unsolved mystery and gnaws away at me; it’s a source of irritation, like a piece of food stuck in your tooth.

Like any true millennial, I took to Instagram to share my woes. I was flooded with recommendations to bribe St Anthony. The fee ranged from a fiver to €20, which I deemed excessive. If he is, in fact, the patron saint of lost things, surely that’s not a service he charges for? You don’t get canonised to make a few quid, I’d hope. Nevertheless, I decided it was worth €20 because it’s going to cost me €75 to replace it. Then the messages came in with specific prayers I had to say if I wanted to catch St Anthony’s attention sufficiently. ‘St Anthony, please call round, something’s lost and can’t be found.’ Or ‘Something’s lost and can’t be found, St Anthony help me look around.’

The fact that such juvenile rhyming couplets are what summon him immediately makes me question the validity of his service. But maybe that’s where I went wrong when I was praying to him during my pregnancies.

There is a massive church near my old house. You’d easily fit 200 three-bedroom houses on the land, but that’s a column for another time. When I was pregnant the first time, we knew there was a problem with the baby. The scan had showed fluid all around them.

During the fortnight in which we awaited results from our amniocentesis procedure, I walked around that church every day. Inside, there’s a life-size statue of the man himself cradling baby Jesus in the crook of his arm. Beside him in almost illegible calligraphy is a long prayer to the saint. It features exactly zero rhyming couplets and instead features emotive phrases like ‘whisper my petition into the ears of the sweet Infant Jesus, who loved to be folded in your arms’.

I said the prayer on a loop while walking inside the freezing, cavernous church. Despite Garth Brooks’ lyrics, I found my unanswered prayer was not a gift from God, but a painful miscarriage I experienced on my own as my husband sat outside the hospital because of Covid-19 restrictions.

So, you can forgive my reluctance to lean on him again for my passport. But beggars can’t be choosers I guess, and it would seem when it comes to lost items St Anthony is your only man. I’m at a point now — detritus from every drawer in my house strewn on the floor; on my knees with nowhere else to look — that I’ve offered him €10 and a scratch card if he can come through on this one for me. If you’ve an in with him, you might put in a good word. Cheers.

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