Thursday, January 17, 2013

St. Anthony, Patron Saint of Bacon

Today is the feast of St. Anthony the Abbot, one of the greats among the Desert Fathers, whose life by Athanasius has remained a classic for almost 1700 years.

St. Anthony is most commonly portrayed with a boar or pig, symbolizing his victory over gluttony but, in the way these things often go, he came to be regarded as the patron of pigs and swineherds. The measles, known as St. Anthony's Fire, were often treated by rubbing the eruptions with pork fat or bacon.

A few years ago, the Archie McPhee Company took this connection to its logical conclusion and began selling a statuette of St. Anthony as Patron Saint of Bacon. For some, I suppose, this might be pushing even the vague boundaries of folk religion a bit far, but I'm afraid that merely underestimates the passion of a true bacon aficionado like myself. Bacon is my kryptonite. It is the archemeat and epitome of carnivore goodness. The Korean deli across from my old office had a breakfast buffet every morning with a glorious mound of bacon rising out of the steam trays. It wasn't the greatest bacon, but if it wasn't a day of abstinence, I usually dropped by on my way in to work to pay my respects.

The little statuette even came with this Prayer to Assist with the Enjoyment of Quality Bacon:

O wonderous St. Anthony, please bless me with an abundance of quality bacon and grant me the patience and timing to properly fry each glorious strip. Amen.

I'm sure that it wasn't meant to be taken seriously, but I could say it in good faith. Just as St. Anthony's being portrayed with a pig led him being appropriated as the patron of swineherds, I seen no reason why this little prayer can't be appropriated as well and St. Anthony's legendary self-control makes it doubly appropriate. More than once in the past I have allowed my bacon lust, doubly aroused by the smell coming from the pan, to convince me to take my bacon off the heat before it was nice and crisp because I couldn't bear the agony of waiting any longer. If you can invoke the other St. Anthony of Padua to find your lost keys, I see no problem with invoking this one in a far more important matter.

Blessed Anthony, watch over your swineherds, your pigs, and their bacon.