Saint Anthony's Key

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

One evening, I visited a certain family in the village of Saligao in Goa. Over a cup of tea, the lady of the house told me a very interesting story.

“Our old house in Saligao,” she began, “was previously home to two separate families. One part belonged to Mr and Mrs X, and the other to Mr & Mrs Y. Now Mr & Mrs Y had an alcoholic son who was a great bully and troublemaker in the village. Mr X was working in Africa, while Mrs X together with her young son remained in Saligao for some time. She was a great devotee of St Anthony of Lisbon. While her child was being baptised, Mrs X squeezed in the second name ‘Anthony’ at the baptismal fount, after that of a king and confessor. She said that the statue of St Anthony that she possessed should go to this son of hers after her death, but in reality it has remained in the house.”

We paused to sip our tea. The lady then continued, “Anthony was a handsome lad and almost perfect, both mentally and physically. Already as a child he displayed signs of unusual intelligence. His older neighbour, Mrs Y’s alcoholic son, was quite jealous of Anthony, and wanted to entice him to join in his nasty pranks, but the angelic lad just could not be corrupted. His neighbour was livid and vowed to get his own back.

“Once when in an inebriated state, he summoned Anthony to his room. Innocently, the boy entered. The drunkard offered him some tablets and said, “Baba, him pipirmitam tum kha, maink mat sango naka, ham?” (Young lad, eat these mints, but don’t tell your mother, okay?). Not much later, the boy began to complain of extreme uneasiness. Mrs X was puzzled at this unusual state of her son, as just a little while earlier she had seen him to be quite okay. She attempted to administer some home remedies but Anthony’s condition remained unchanged. Then the superstitious but religious Mrs X suddenly remembered something: ‘I will invoke St. Anthony at this hour,’ she stated.

We took a break to nibble at the delicious rissois (prawn patties) that had been laid out for me. I finished my tea quickly, eager to hear the rest of the story. The lady continued her narration: “Mrs X possessed a tiny 2-inch-high statue of St Anthony. It was in her trunk. She had total faith that all her problems could be solved through this miraculous statue of the saint. She brought out the statue and kept it on a table. She then placed next to it a prayer book tied very tightly with a ribbon and then inserted the house key in the middle. The key was placed in such a way that it could be held by the fingertips of two people, one on either side.

“Mrs X called the drunkard, who was now back to a sober state, over. She enquired if he had done anything to her darling Anthony, but he flatly denied all accusations. Whereupon Mrs X asked him to stand in front of St. Anthony and the prayer book with the ribbon and key around it. She asked him to hold the key with the tip of his finger on one side, and the other side was held by her. She then said a prayer to St Anthony, urging him to indicate who the culprit was. In the process a few names of probable guilty parties were mentioned. Nothing happened. But no sooner was the neighbour’s name mentioned than the key took on a life of its own, made a swift turn and caused the prayer book to fall to the ground. St Anthony had delivered once more! The drunkard was perplexed and turned red. Mrs X questioned him again: “Tuvem pil’lam dilleaim mure Anthony-ak?“(It was you who gave tablets to Anthony, isn’t it?) He confessed sheepishly. The culprit was caught!

I laughed at the end of this strange story and discounted the possibility of any divine intervention in the process, dismissing it as mere superstition that abounded in Goan villages. My host seemed miffed and offered to demonstrate to me that St Anthony’s Key actually worked. She brought out a prayer book tied with a blue ribbon and inserted the house key in it. She said a neighbour of hers had been causing a lot of trouble for her family recently but she not been able to establish who the exact culprit was. She invoked the name of St Anthony, and, right enough, the key twisted and the book fell when a particular name of one of her neighbours was called out during the prayer. It had not moved at all while several other names were mentioned. She said the man in question had confessed when this exercise had been carried out earlier and had resulted in the same outcome.

I saw the key moving and the book falling with my own eyes. In other parts of Goa you might have heard of similar stories, with the key being replaced with other household objects like knives, spoons or a pair of scissors. Something supernatural at work here? Or sheer magnetic sleight of hand? I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions whether this was simple superstition at work or not.

4 comments on Saint Anthony’s key

  • A wonderful story. The lady’s faith is touching. I too have heard of people tying up St. Anthony when they wish to find a lost object and even placing stones on St. Anthony’s head when there is no rain.
    Can any one tell about such stories?

  • I like your writings, Nascu (as we used to call you in seminary days), you are really offering us something to think. My Mother used to pray for the intercession of St.Antony and find lost keys without a fail. We should recover lost causes and lost persons through our devotion to Saint Anthony….
    Keep it up!

  • Allan De Cruz

    Dear Fr. Nascimento…It is wonderful to read your writings on Saligao …I am sure you would agree that most villages in Goa have similar stories of their own…Saligao is very special village to me and close to my heart.. as in our childhood days Saligao was a common holiday village during the April / May summer school holidays …I was fortunate that I had aunts who were residents in Saligao..The visits to the Aquem springs over the hill from Donvaddo was an exprience…

    I do remember you when you were posted at the Porvorim Chapel and visited the Socorro Church ( Our Lady of Perpetual Succour church) during the Novenas to do the sermons…if I can recall correctly this would have been around early 1980s when Fr. Carlos vaz ( who hails from the same village) was the Parish Priest..Due various reasons we have migrated overseas since 1990…however Goa remains in our hearts and minds forever…

    Fr Nascimento I thought of writing to you especially to let you know that there are various families who have been blessed by the powers of healing through the devotion of Saint Anthony…In a way it seems very funny that Saligao has a mention….!

    In Nachinola village ( Bardez) on the way to Aldona there was a Rapose family near the Coutinho House ( Nickname Cutni-guer) who had a statue of Saint Anthony in the house. The nickname of the owners of the house where the statue was kept was called ” Kollea-guer ” …Originally from Saligao / settlers in Nachinola. Their forefathers came to Nachinola from Saligao ( Ganvkar of Saligao) through the Ghor – Zanvoi route.

    They had a statue of Saint Anthony in the house where people from all over Bardez came to seek his blessings. Generally it would be to ” TIE ” Saint Anthony. People would generally be victims of robbery , cheating , Land disputes etc who came to tie Saint Anthony. There are several cases of Saint Anthony coming to their aid and the matters being settled / resovled through various means. Over the last 20 years or so the statue of Saint Anthony has been placed in a small chapel built in Nachinola.

    Another case comes to my mind which occured about 25 years ago in Moira in the house of my great grand mother. You would have probably known my grand uncles ( Priests Brothers from Moira) Fr Elias De souza and Fr. Fremius De Souza …I understand Fr Elias was in the Se Cathedral around the early 1960s ( he passed away in the early 1970s..I was too young to remember though I have to say I remember his funeral very well) and Fr. Fremius De souza a gifted musician and a choir conductor who passed away in the mid- 1990s in the Casa Urbina Clergy home in Porvorim.

    When Fr Fremius (He was known as Joaquim Pattu in the family) retired from the Goa Diocese in the mid 1970s and came to live in his ancestral house in Moira he was living with his spinster sister for many years. They came from a reasonable middle class , land owning / agriculture oriented family. They had a tenant who one afternoon while Pattu Joaquim was resting in the vasri / refedor on his armchair ( Volter ) entered the large house (there were no window grills then for the house) and stole some gold and other religious articles. The large house had a seperate ” Quarto ” where both Fr. Elias & Fr. Joaquim ( Fr Fremius later ) celebrated mass where these religious articles were kept.

    What was very sad was that the tenant took away Fr Fremius sisters’ silver rosary which had been passed down from her mother. They immediately invoked the blessing of Saint Anthony that night and within a few days ( the other gold was never returned ) the rosary was found one morning under the front door of the house when they went to open the door in the morning as usual…

    Put the above to one thing – Stong Faith & Devotion.

    It may be one of those things when it comes to believing for many today however I am happy to share the real experiences which have taken place in my family and my parents have reminded us. Yes we are living abroad but we are fully grounded in our Goan Christian village upbringing. We are constantly reminded even today of the hardships the previous generations went through (being an Agricultural / Land owning family…money was relatively scarce). We are fortunate today on account of the sacrifices that the previous generations went through.

    Fr . Nascimento …In closing, I wish and pray that God gives you good health and a long life to carry on with the wonderful job you are doing for Saligao and His Ministry.

    Deu Borem korum.


    • Dear Allan De Cruz,

      My name is Richard De Souza and I am tracing the genealogies of the families of Moira village. I have got extensive trees for most of the families from Moira. Who was your great-grandmother in Moira, if you don’t mind me asking? I have a few names of Souza’s from the same clan as Fr. Elias, but no connections – do keep in touch and maybe we can find some connections.

      My family tree website is provided.

      God bless,

      Richard (Seminarian, UK)

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