Blessings in Berlin

Saint Anthony

Saint Anthony

I am cleaning my office and a small card falls to the floor. It is a sweet painting of a saint holding a child and some white lilies. It brings back memories from our journey last year.

When Kerstin and I were in Berlin last fall, walking to our hotel, dressed in our 1840s long and wide dresses and colorful shawls, we passed by a woman who was similarly dressed, sitting on the sidewalk, begging. She also had a wide skirt and a large shawl. We passed her a few times. She smiled at us and we smiled back. The next time we walked by, I gave her a euro and she gave me the small card. She said something in a language I couldn’t place but it sounded like a blessing. I put the card in my reticule and didn’t think more about it.

Today, I decided to research the painting. I copied some of the text from the back of the card into Google Translate:   “ochrzczono go imieniem Ferdynand” – it was Polish and translated as “he was baptized with the name of Ferdinand”.  Maybe the woman who was begging was a Roma from Poland?

Kerstin in our hotel in Berlin

Kerstin in our hotel in Berlin

Then I read up on the saint. Saint Anthony of Padua was born in Lisbon in 1195. In art, he can be recognized by carrying the infant Jesus and holding a white lily, representing purity. The US city, San Antonio, got the name from Saint Anthony.

Why did the woman choose this card? Maybe because Saint Anthony is the patron saint of travelers. She was obviously a traveler, sitting on the sidewalk in Berlin, begging. And we were travelers, following in the footsteps of our great-great grandmother.

Detail of painting by Sir David Wilkie

Detail of painting by Sir David Wilkie

I wish we would have been able to communicate. And I hope Saint Anthony is watching over her wherever her travels may have taken her.

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