Monday, 17 December 2012

St Anthony of Padua Used to Promote Gresham Blake Suits

Incongruous: St Anthony promoting very expensive suits
I went out and did some Christmas shopping today for family and a friend. I must say that the overblown commercialization of Christmas is something with which I feel acutely uncomfortable, partly, of course, because I'm skint.

On one level, you have your High Street encouraging people to recognise that it is Christmas. There are nice lights everywhere and signs of the festivity of Christmastide - an objectively 'good thing' - but I do have sympathy with the afflicted worker for Brighton and Hove City Council, who wrote his thoughts in Christmas lights across Churchill Square.

Little of Christ is to be found, of course. I managed to find a small nativity scene in one shop, but, on the whole, that is quite unusual.

In some shops, I wondered whether Christmas cards with the nativity scene on them aren't sold because the rich owners don't want to sell them, or because they are convinced that a secular Britain won't buy them. I'm convinced that they do not sell them because they do not want to sell them, but then I'm an optimist about 'godless' Britain and a pessimist with regard to High Street chains.

The high street, then, and perhaps your average Brit, wants the effects of Christmas and the celebrations - but not the message, which is rejected. And then, even when there is a sign of Christianity, one discovers that its being presented in a kitsch or slightly mocking way.

The image above is from the window display of a shop in Brighton called Gresham Blake, who make suits for rich and famous people and anyone else who can afford them. I had seen the statue displayed once before and decided, as I was passing to go in today and say something.

So, I asked the man and the woman at the counter ("Suits you, sir! Suits you!") where they obtained the statue of St Anthony of Padua and what they were planning to do with it after Christmas. The woman replied that they had got it off Ebay and that they'd be bringing it out again next year. They asked me if I was interested in it. Not quite knowing what to say next, I told them, "I must say that I find it a little sacrilegious and anyway St Anthony is a Saint who was closely associated with the poor - not the rich."

Gresham Blake's boutique, Bond Street, Brighton
They stared blankly at me not knowing what to say. I didn't know what else to say either, so I left. Obviously, this is more than a 'little sacrilegious'. Aside from St Anthony's 'preferential option for the poor', this is a Catholic statue being used irreligiously and irrelevantly to promote suits. This is not what such statues are for. Statues are to be an aid to increase devotion to God and his Saints.

Why is it that the religious are asked to keep their faith private, but the irreligious are not asked to keep their irreverance towards religion private also?

On the whole, though, I feel like I bottled it and could have really taken them to task for this window display, but as readers will probably have guessed, I'm a lot more ferocious on the internet than I am in face-to-face contact and I guess that ultimately, I'm something of a coward.

Perhaps we could argue that in a country in which statues of Saints are rarely seen, at least they are in a shop display, but I really think that it will not do. As well as being disrespectful to the true reason for which statues of Catholic Saints are made and disrespectful to the God who made Saint Anthony of Padua into the great Saint that he is, it is also disrespectful to those who have a devotion to him and I happen to be one of those people.

I'm thinking of other ways of pressing home my feelings about this misuse of a statue of St Anthony to Gresham Blake, owner of the Gresham Blake store and its workers. Ideas so far include walking into the store and singing Maria Mater Gratiae to the statue, said to be St Anthony's favourite hymn to Our Lady, kissing the feet of the statue and praying the Rosary in Gresham Blake in reparation. Perhaps I could inform the owner that if there is anything that he has lost, such as respect for the sacred, that he should pray immediately to St Anthony in order to retrieve it since St Anthony of Padua, as well as being patron of the poor is patron of lost things and persons. The presence of the statue is at least a point at which one can evangelise. Any more ideas of what I can do to inspire Gresham Blake to think twice about this?

St Anthony beholding the Child Jesus, enrapt in prayer
St Anthony of Padua is said to have meditated so perfectly on the Nativity of the Lord that the Lord Jesus appeared and allowed the Saint to hold Him in his arms. He devoted his life entirely to the service of Christ in charity, in poverty, obedience, humility and service to the poor, lending and giving to the poor as regularly as he chastised the rich and powerful. A more incongruous patron of Gresham Blake, in Heaven at least, you will not find, short of the founder of the Order to which he belonged, St Francis of Assisi.

Maybe there is a perverse message in it for us. Christmas isn't about shopping and spending loads of money, worshipping at the altar of consumerism as we are coerced into 'buying more s**t' for people that people probably don't even want it. It's not about Gresham Blake. It's about Jesus Christ - God made Man and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Who came to take man up to God - Who came to make sinners and cowardly ones at that into Saints. If only they'd take the Gresham Blake bag and silly tie off St Anthony, glorious Wonderworker, friend to the poor and outcast and castigator of the ruthless and rich, left him in the window and gave clothing and money out to the poor and homeless of Brighton, then it wouldn't be so sacrilegious after all. Who knows, if Gresham Blake love St Anthony so much, have a devotion to him and want to keep him, maybe they could lend him to the Catholic Churches in Brighton for annual processions on his Feast Day, June 13?

Brighton's so multicultural and diverse, you know. All religious sensitivities are catered for here, like the rest of Britain, aside for the one on which it is perpetual open season, that is. I will, of course, email Gresham Blake my thoughts as well as this blog post and of course you are entitled to send your own thoughts to Mr Blake and his staff in Brighton as well.

Perhaps join me in saying a prayer to St Anthony of Padua:

Holy Saint Anthony, gentle and powerful in your help, your love for God and charity for His creatures, made you worthy, when on earth, to possess miraculous powers.
Miracles waited on your word, which you were always ready to request for those in trouble or anxiety.
Encouraged by this thought, I implore you to obtain for me (that sacred objects be treated by even the impious with the respect that should be accorded to them).
The answer to my prayer may require a miracle. Even so, you are the Saint of miracles. Gentle and loving Saint Anthony, whose heart is ever full of human sympathy, take my petition to the Infant Savior for whom you have such a great love, and the gratitude of my heart will ever be yours. Amen.

Prayers to St Anthony are, by the way, unfailing.


Physiocrat said...

Invite the shop owner to help with the soup run.

Lynda said...

Thank you for saying something to that shop's staff about the statue of St Francis. We are not to dispose of or misuse objects of our Faith in such ways. God bless.

Nicolas Bellord said...

In our village the tiny post office has a notice on the glass partition above the counter which just reads:

"Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be."

It gave me joy.

By the way I hope you keep your masthead so that we can recite the Prayer for England each time we come to your blog.

The Bones said...

Yes, keeping the masthead. Maybe with some holly in the top corner because its Advent.

Genty said...

It's really sad to think that this statue must once have stood in a church.
On the positive side, you could, I suppose, print out a few copies of a short life of St. Anthony, majoring on his talent for finding lost items, and take them to the shop; a kind of lateral evangelisation.
You never know, he might find a few lost souls. I love St Anthony. He has never let me down.

Physiocrat said...

"Prayers to St Anthony are, by the way, unfailing."

Yes he found my travel card the other day. But is it that St Anthony or the other one?

Patricius said...

The Godless have little sense of irony! A shop selling expensive clothes has in its window display the statue of St Anthony who joined the Franciscans - an order founded by the son of a wealthy cloth merchant who had quite spectacularly thrown off a life of luxury and whose own distinctive costume was a patchwork of scraps and patches- still to be seen in Assisi. Brill!

Gresham Blake said...

I did not mean to offend, and st Anthony was not a commercial move on my behalf. I could have put in Santa for that. To be honest I hate the commercial side of Xmas and the tat we buy each other. My own family has had a present ban for years unless we see something ideal but that is rare. It was ment to be a comment on the lack of spiritualism at Xmas. And although not being a catholic my self, St Antony seemed apt concidering the St background. It's interesting that we don't see our saints around.My wife is Hindu and there saints statues are everywhere.
I agree that the bag is pushing my point a bit far, and will remove when the shop opens on the 2nd. I will of course be happy to donate the statue for your religious event. Am happy to discuss further if you wish.. May be a crucifix for Easter. !..Happy New Year Gresham Blake

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