“Mom, this isn’t the fake Santa like at the mall, this is the REAL ONE!” the child said. Funny thing is, with this one there are no presents around, no telling him what you want, only a silent presence.
We don’t want to feed the make-believe stories and materialism of our age, but children and Christmas are a delight. We want to help them know St. Nicholas’ origin and witness to his thoughtfulness and giving, hoping we will all learn to give in imitation of Jesus as he did.
We work hard at walking the fine line of saying only that which is true, yet not “leaking the secret” in any way. Fr. Christensen blazed the trail with very carefully chosen words. We have modified the process a bit: the elves are no longer with us, or the book of naughty and nice, but the vocal point remains constant. St. Nick leans on his bishop’s crosier as he enters dressed in a dalmatic, cope, and miter. He is typically wearing the oldest shoes on earth, and comes in at a pace appropriate for one about 1600 years old, very slowly, very, very slowly. Never have I seen such silent, focused attention by 400 children. St. Nicholas slowly enters the church, processes down the aisle, steps into the sanctuary, stops, turns around and stands while a two-minute biography is read. (I feel like the background voice in Charlie Brown cartoons, as I relay his history. I read the real words, but let’s face it, they are so focused on watching, that for most the sound is, “Wa, wa, wa, wa-wa….” in the background).
Here is the bio we read, taken from www.stnicholascenter.org :
The real Santa lived a long time ago in the country of Turkey. His name was Nicholas.
Nicholas’ parents died when he was just a teenager. His parents left him a lot of money which made him a rich young man. He went to live with his uncle who was a priest.
Nicholas heard about a man who had lost all his money. He had three daughters who were old enough to get married. But in those days young women had to have money in order to get married. This money was a dowry and it was used to help the new family get started. If you didn’t have dowry money, you couldn’t get married.
This family was so poor they had nothing to eat. The daughters were going to be sold as slaves because they couldn’t provide for them at home any longer. They were very sad. They wouldn’t be able to have families of their own. And they would have to be slaves—no longer able to decide where they would live or what they would do.
The night before the oldest daughter was to be sold, she washed her stockings and put them in front of the fire to dry through the night.
In the morning the daughter saw a lump in her stocking. Reaching in, she found a small, heavy bag. It had gold inside! Enough to provide food for the family and money for her dowry. Oh, how happy they were!
The next morning, another bag with gold was found. Imagine! Two of the daughters would now be saved. Such joy!
And the next night, the father planned to stay awake to find out who was helping his daughters. He dozed off, but heard a small “clink” as another bag landed in the room. Quickly he jumped up and ran out the door. Who did he catch ducking around the corner?
Nicholas, the young man who lived with his uncle. “Nicholas, it is you! Thank you for helping us—I hardly know what to say!” Nicholas said, “Please, do not thank me—thank God that your prayers have been answered. Do not tell others about me.”
Nicholas continued helping people. He always tried to help secretly. He didn’t want any attention or thanks. Years passed and he was chosen to be a bishop. Bishops look after their people as shepherds look after their sheep. And that is what Nicholas did. When there wasn’t any food, he provided for his people; so no one went hungry. He always helped people in trouble. All his life Nicholas showed people how to love God and care for each other.
Everyone loved Nicholas. After he died, they told stories of the good and kind things Nicholas had done. Sailors took these stories about Nicholas everywhere they went. Some of the stories were about his special care for children—helping and protecting them when danger threatened. And so more and more people learned about good, kind Nicholas. They wanted to be like him. He is an example of how we should live. And that is why he became a Saint. —Carol Myers
Our current tradition here is to put a shoe out when we go to Mass. Our halls on Dec. 6 look like this:
When they return from Mass a holy card of St. Nicholas and a candy cane are in their shoe.
Praying you and your family can prepare for Jesus’ coming through knowing God’s love for us and giving the gift of self as the Father did in Jesus – and St. Nicholas imitated.