Have you ever had a devotion to a saint and never really known it? That’s apparently been my jam for a number of years. I’m really slow, it would seem. And that’s how it was when it came to St. Nicholas.
For years, I have had particular devotions to various saints: St. Maria Goretti (a long-time Kreitzer Family favorite saint whom we drove four hours to venerate her relics on All Souls Day in 2015), St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Thérèse of Lisieux (a popular favorite among many Catholics!), and St. Josemaría Escrivá – a saint I felt drawn to by his detachment from worldly things and his push for corporal mortification.
I only bought one book about St. Maria Goretti (published by @tan_books) as we waited in line and my daughter has been hogging it all day, lol! She is almost done, though, and I look forward to closing the day by reading more about her life. She has been a family favorite for years. It was such a huge blessing to make the pilgrimage to see her relics. #AllSoulsDay
So much of what we know about St. Nicholas is wrapped up in secular culture; St. Nicholas has been turned into Santa Claus, an almost fantastical construct of the mind. He has been reduced from an iconic man, fervent follower of Christ, magnanimous heart, and Bishop of Myra who signed the Nicene Creed to a barrel-shaped man with an obvious problem with gluttony who rides around in a toy-filled sleigh led by reindeer and leaving toys for children by shoving himself magically down the chimney.
How I Fell in Love with St. Nicholas
Over the years, as I came to learn more about the jolly old saint, I became enchanted with his devotion to helping others in need. He was born into a wealthy family and did not hesitate to use his inheritance to help those less fortunate than himself, including the well-known story of the widower and his three daughters for whom he did not have dowries.
Most of the stories of St. Nicholas involve some level of helping others, and often times his charity was done mysteriously, or anonymously. This particular detail was one that left a solid impression upon me. It’s not always possible to donate or give things to others anonymously, but it is always possible to do something kind, and in some instances, anonymously. This became a point of focus for me as we went through boxes of things in the house.
I could donate these items to a local thrift store…or I could ask around and see which friends were in need and offer them whatever items we had that still had life. There have been rare instances in which I have been able to ask a friend if they knew of someone in need and what those needs were. My family was able to give anonymously as a result.
An unexpected life lesson from St. Nicholas
Giving things away has become quite easy for me, but this wasn’t always the case. I can look back to the kind of child and even young adult I was, and there was definitely a large part of me that was (and still fights against being) pretty selfish. My things are…MINE. As giving things away and passing things on to others in need became easier, I noticed something else stemmed from that. I felt compelled to give gifts that were more thoughtful. St. Nicholas didn’t just give to those in need, but he gave them things that were of utmost importance. I wanted that to be the backbone of my gift giving. I admit this is still a daily practice and one that doesn’t come to me automatically. But anything worth doing is worth doing well. I just keep plugging along and my prayer is simple: Lord, help me become better at _______. This was one of the primary reasons why I created the Christmas Shopping Challenge. Intentional gift giving leads not only to a more peaceful Advent, but it means that you aren’t pressed for time to buy “whatever” for loved ones. It curtails the impulsive, but impersonal purchases that I was prone to.
So, why a post in July about St. Nicholas? It does seem a bit misplaced, right? Well, in commercial circles July tends to be known as Christmas in July season. As Catholics, what can our takeaway be? Completely ignore the secular world? That can be difficult. I’ve found that this silly secular and commercial game of putting Christmas decor up many months before Christmas rolls around can actually work in our favor, as I point out in the Christmas Shopping Challenge. If the call to have a more peace-filled Advent is serious, then shopping long before Advent begins should be our goal as Catholic Christians. Why not start our shopping lists now? We aren’t pressed for time, so let’s get started! In the DAYBOOK, I include the Christmas Shopping Challenge, as well as a gift list, which makes it easier to be intentional with gift giving. I was not born to organize, lol. But if I can do this, you can, too! Give yourself the gift of a stress-free Advent this year by taking the steps to plan your Christmas shopping now.
Lastly, I’d like to leave you with Father Jerome Fasano’s homily on Santa Claus. We attended his parish in Northern Virginia some years ago and he had a profound effect on my desire to learn more about the Faith. He gives this same homily every year and it’s super solid. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Feast.December Pinterest board
What resources would you add to this list?