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It's time for 'The Hammer'

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Saturday, June 29, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

In a small irony of the summer of 2013, the St. Anthony of Padua Festival Committee, sponsor of the celebration in Pittsburgh's Strip District, cannot find the winner of its annual raffle. The charity has reviewed the ticket stubs and emailed sellers to no avail.

Any other group might be a little alarmed by now. But the committee has yet to play its trump card. If all else fails, it will seek intercession from no less than St. Anthony himself, the patron saint of lost things.

Not to put any pressure on “The Hammer of the Heretics,” as the 13th-century Franciscan friar was known, but some committee members have jokingly suggested that if that fails, they will appeal to his boss. And next year, they could be holding the St. Francis of Assisi Festival.

But no one believes that will be necessary. For centuries, St. Anthony has been finding lost things, and everybody at the festival has a story to tell. Whether it's lost keys or a lost love, it seems to work for anybody who says the magic words, “Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around, something's lost and can't be found.”

It makes you wonder how “The Hammer” might help with a few other things around here. There's that spirit-sapping fight between Highmark and UPMC, the one in which wealthy executives on both sides are using patients' money to one-up each other. Maybe St. Anthony could help them all find the common sense they have lost.

And while it is too late for St. Anthony to help UPMC find the compassion and charity that would have kept it from closing Braddock Hospital in the name of godless profit, maybe he could lead them to some sorely needed intelligence. Running ads threatening to close more hospitals if their demands are not met is stupid.

When Pittsburgh's new mayor takes office, he could use St. Anthony's help with the state Legislature. The current Republican leadership has lost faith in the city and if “The Hammer” helps them find it, a raft of urban problems could be addressed cooperatively — including the pension shortfall, mass transit and a solution for budget-draining tax-exempt institutions.

St. Anthony could help our national politicians find that place that Cicero describes, that place they all knew well at one time, where the welfare of the people was the highest law, where hungry children were not political pawns and programs to feed them were not chips in an ideological poker game.

Enlightenment, if found, might end the mean-spirited talk about eliminating minimum-wage requirements. Medicaid expansion would be embraced by all states as one way to expand medical coverage to the suffering. And honest, hardworking people, chasing Lady Liberty's promise, would be welcomed and not rebuffed.

At the end of the day, maybe we should ask St. Anthony to simply help us find our way. We have lost our way.

Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (

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