Saturday, May 12, 2018

Saint Anthony and the Cat? Not quite...

At the front of the Nanticoke church formerly known as Holy Trinity, now the St. Faustina Main Site, there is a mysterious statue. It is small, about 2/3 life size, and rather simple in design. But it is not a single statue. It has a companion.

When I first noticed this statue a while back, I assumed it was St. Anthony of Padua, just on the basis of the tonsure and the soft, youthful face. But St. Anthony is usually depicted in a brown habit, holding a young (but usually not infant) Christ. And what was that at his feet?

...Seriously, what the hell is that thing? Based on its size and posture, I assumed it was a cat. St. Anthony doesn't have any connection to cats, though he did once preach to a lake full of fish when he decided he just wasn't getting through to humans. This is the sort of thing that might interest a cat greatly. But that face doesn't look like a cat. It looks more like...I dunno, a fox, or weasel, or even a dog? And what is that thing in its mouth? From a distance it looks like a lit cigar, but up close it looks like...a torch, maybe?

I searched for saints associated with cats. I found St. Phillip Neri, St. Gertrude of Nievelles, and even St. Martin de Porres, though his cat is usually depicted with a dog and a mouse, all eating from the same bowl. No cats, especially not cats with torches in their mouths.

There is, however, a saint associated with a dog with a torch in its mouth. From the entry for St. Dominic on Catholic Online:
According to one legend, his mother made a pilgrimage to an abbey at Silos. Legend says there were many signs of the great child she would bear. One of the most common legends says that during the pilgrimage, Joan had a dream of a dog leaping from her womb with a torch in its mouth. The animal "seemed to set the earth on fire." His parents named him Dominic a play on the words Domini canis, meaning the Lord's dog in Latin. 
St. Dominic founded the religious order of the Dominicans, also known as "God's dogs." From the Wikipedia entry "Dominican order" as retrieved on May 11, 2018:
In England and other countries the Dominican friars are referred to as "Black Friars" because of the black cappa or cloak they wear over their white habits.
This matches the outfit on the statue. The book, the tonsure, the rosary, and the dog with torch are all considered common attributes of St. Dominic. The missing ones are lilies, a staff, and a star on the forehead.

So, it seems this is not a depiction of St. Anthony and a cat at all, but rather one of St. Dominic and a dog.

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