Tomorrow is Saint Nicholas Day and last week I got out our Christmas books (many of which I found via the Splendor in the Ordinary blog). The boys and I read the story of Saint Nicholas together. It was one of those children’s books that sanitizes the full story – how Saint Nicholas secretly gave the three girls gold coins for their dowries to save them from having to prostitute themselves – try explaining that to a 3-year-old. Perhaps it was the time of day or a case of the wiggles, but they didn’t seem that into it.
Then that night at dinner, I mentioned that we had read the book and Michael told a different version of The Story of Saint Nicholas which I strongly feel was the seed of his budding children’s book writing career. It went something like this:
Saint Nicholas loved Jesus and tried very hard to love and care for other people just like Jesus did. That’s why he secretly gave money to those girls. And in our catechism how many Gods are there? [Boys: ‘One true God’] And how many person? [‘Three’] And what are their names? [‘God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit!’] Do you remember the Nicene creed that we say in church that goes ‘I believe in God the Father…?’ [‘Uh-huh.’] Well, Saint Nicholas was there when they wrote that creed. And there was a man named Arius that said Jesus wasn’t God. And Saint Nicholas punched him in the nose!
The boys squealed with delight at this idea. My first thought was “So much for teaching them to deal with conflict by talking it out…” but on the other hand it sparked their imaginative interest in the real Santa Claus that went a little beyond gifts and all that was jolly. The man whose gifts met profound physical needs and whose passion for Christ evidentially took on a physical expression at times. As an adult there is a rawness about the Saint Nicholas story that appeals to me. One who saw poverty and brokenness, desperation and destitution and in those early days of Christendom worked to bring hope and relief as a reflection of Christ’s love.
Out of great darkness, light.