I wrote a bit about this before but one of my former colleagues used to say that placing Santa into a Catholic Mass in any way sends a mixed message.
And I say he’s as wrong as wrong could be!
Why? Well, lest we forget, Santa Claus is a saint! And that makes Santa a Catholic, a Bishop, even!
And the real St. Nicholas was a 4th Century Bishop who was renown for his care for poor families. He would try to provide money for desperate families who would be forced to send their daughter’s into a life of prostitution in order to survive. So he would throw a gold bar through their open window and that would provide a dowry for the daughter to be married. If their window was closed, he wouldn’t give up–he’d climb to the roof and throw the gold bar down the chimney!
Santa reminds me of a great Jesuit that we have come to call Pope Francis. The usual trappings of the Papacy haven’t stopped him from going the extra yard for the poor. One of his colleagues upon his election even said to him to “Congrats! Do not forget about the poor.” Knowing of course how easy it would be to forget about the poor in the fancy Vatican residence. And reportedly, the Pope leaves that fancy place and goes into the streets at night to spend time with the poor. Can you imagine?
Santa Claus was a lot like that. He was so beloved that even non-religious people made a real person into a legend–but that legend sprang from his dedication to Christ.
So I do believe in Santa—because to not believe is to not be dedicated to Christ and to all those we are called to be dedicated to.
Is there a more famous saint than Santa Claus? That’s doubtful. He’s certainly the easiest to recognize and the one who has effected so many lives. By the same token, I’m sure the real St Nick is none too happy about how commercialized Christmas has become.
So perhaps that’s our job these days? Maybe instead of all the presents we buy, we might ask how we can go the extra yard, taking our dollars and putting them at the service of the poor in some way?
To do so, honors Santa and in turn, Christ. It also sounds like the message of Francis, who has been one of the better gifts that we could have gotten this year.
So today let’s pray in the spirit of Pope Francis, Saint Nicholas and of course, Christ, that the poor might be given dignity and a safe harbor during this Christmas time. Maybe we can consider who is sleeping on the streets and who might be awake but lonely? And perhaps we need Santa to move our hearts just a bit more so we might be filled with joy and love that comes with the birth of a Savior from a God who loves us so magnanimously!