December 17-23, 2001
volume 12, no. 161

'Once upon a time there was something wonderful called Tradition'

As bad as it would be if children didn't believe in Santa Claus, how much worse would it be if even 'Santa' and his elves diminished the true meaning of Christmas?

    There are many who have told us they are too old, too set in their ways to go back to the 'old ways' that sustained Holy Mother Church for nearly 2000 years. Well, if that is true, then perhaps we should address the younger members of the Church - the children and see if they understand how important their Faith is to them. I have been praying on how to find a common denominator - a story - that they could understand and I believe I have found one in the analogy over the manner of how today they are first introduced to the concept of Christmas.

    Once upon a time there was a Baby Jesus, and He left for us the Truths and Traditions that began with His birth. This is called CHRISTMAS. There was also a holy saint who loved the Christ Child so that he gave gifts to others to celebrate Jesus' birthday. Every child knows about Santa Claus, but do they know that originally he was known as Saint Nicholas or 'jolly Saint Nick? The whole purpose of the charisms of St. Nick was to pass down the traditions of the importance of Christmas, made possible by the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah, the Word made Flesh in which the Father gave the greatest Gift that could be given - His only-begotten Son wrapped in the purest of gifts - the living tabernacle of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, free from all stain of sin from all time because she was destined to be the Mother of God. These traditions were enhanced by such great men as Saint Francis of Assisi who intended all to remember this glorious, joyful occasion with the creche or manger scene that has been passed down to present day by faithful elves who have kept the tradition of Christmas intact.

    Yes, children, there are a few elves out there who still remember what Christmas used to be like and even have undeniable records that used to be the standard by which all 'St. Nicks' lived by the 'claus'es (pun intended) they codified as absolute and unchangeable. There was only one Christmas and that was the only holiday which was celebrated with such esteem. It was the only true holiday with the longest tradition and celebrated by so many the world-over. Everything was focused on Christmas for centuries.

    It wasn't easy at first. You see Christmas was a time that the pagans weren't ready to accept in the early days. It was too much to believe and so they persecuted those who celebrated Christmas. This went on for 300 years, but then someone came into power who realized this was a good thing that everyone should celebrate. He even built special houses for the One they honored after he had seen the cross in the sky, the same cross that Christmas Child died on before rising gloriously to proclaim to a doubting world that truly He was the Son of God.

   After a man named Constantine the Great, the growth of the belief of Christmas spread throughout the world and prospered. Carols were composed that commemorated this beautiful feast. Oh, there were those who objected and tried to set up their own feasts, but Christmas wouldn't compromise and the 'St. Nicks' during those times, for the most part, upheld their solemn oaths and made Christmas strong for all, despite the objections of rabble rousers. They even defended with might the workshop area where the Child was born and taught so many the Truths of God.

    However there were several not-so saintly 'Nicks' in the 15th century who veered from what Christmas was truly about. This confused many and gave rise to those who wanted their own Christmas with their own customs which they decided was best. Taking a little of this and a little of that, they fashioned a Christmas they deemed better. They kept many of the customs, but dropped tougher ones, ones they couldn't totally agree with because they were too steeped in myth. They even rewrote many of the 'clauses' that had determined what Christmas should be. The result of this was that hundreds of thousands broke away from the true Christmas and started their own separate Christmasses. In order to counteract this rebellion, one wise 'St. Nick' aided by a special Company of dedicated elves which was founded by a group of holy elves devoted to 'St. Nick' and who vowed to protect him even unto death - held an assembly in the mountains of Northern Italy to reassert the true teachings of what Christmas meant. They set in no unspecific terms that Christmas was the only true day of the birth of Christ and anyone who did not come to that belief through initiation by water and belief would not receive the ultimate gift of eternal life. This tradition stood strong and once again Christmas grew, especially on the other side of the world where in the old land where 'St. Nick' resided, wars were being fought and a subterfuge was underway to totally undermine the true meaning of Christmas.

    Mean bah-humbuggers swore they would destroy Christmas. These bullies tried it with a revolt in the land of the croissant that had been so loyal to Christmas. They might have been successful were it not for the loyal elves who, like the earliest elves, kept the traditions alive, even composing a song that characterized all that Christmas meant incorporated within a twelve-day span. The 'St. Nicks' that followed upheld these cherished traditions. And you better believe they were still greatly ravaged by bullies intent on being rebellious. Why they even took valuable property that rightfully belonged to the ones who held the keys of Christmas. But these loyal 'St. Nicks' and their elves held their ground and reverence and respect for the hallowed traditions and meaning of Christmas grew stronger.

    However not all was merry and bright. Beneath the surface spies - they were called fifth columnists - were intent on infiltrating the workshops of the elves, even becoming elves themselves; some even of very high standing. Several wise 'St. Nicks' saw this and warned all of the definite problems that would erupt if the true meaning of Christmas was not upheld with a resoluteness that conveyed total sincerity. That means everyone saying "I swear to God. Cross my heart and hope to die if I'm lying."

    At the very beginning of the past century a very holy 'St. Nick' issued his own 'clause' leaving no doubt as to the dangers that could infiltrate believers of Christmas. He even made it possible for children over seven years old to be able to receive Jesus in Holy Communion. Before that few kids could receive Communion at Mass. However, after awhile not all the elves listened to him or the 'St. Nicks' that followed him. Elves with bad intentions snuck into the workshops and inferior products started to emerge. One of the last great 'St. Nicks' tried to make sure they wouldn't be distributed to the children and even took great measures to make sure those wayward elves were kept in check, quarantining them where they could do no measurable damage. He might have done more but it was hard keeping tabs on everyone when there was a world war going on. He knew just before he died that Christmas would never be the same again. Alas he died broken-hearted.

    The new 'St. Nick,' was a jolly old man in the modern conception of Santa. In fact, that's what he wanted to be called - the 'good Santa.' To perpetuate this he decided to throw a big party. He was striving to please all the children and all the elves. Unfortunately he decided to deck the halls with boughs of tainted holly, not being particularly careful about who he invited to the party. And, oh what a party he threw. It lasted three years it did. But he was around only for the first part because after it got started he realized it had gotten out of hand and he wanted to send everyone home and return to the way it was. Alas, it was too late. He, too, died a saddened man as much as he had wanted to do good it had all gone bad.

    Enter the new 'Santa' - a much thinner one who had no intention of following the traditions set down by all who preceded him. The first thing he did was refuse to be called 'St. Nick.' Can you imagine that? He also continued the ill-advised party well past its appointed hour and soon it turned into a free-for-all where everyone was making demands and changing the Christmas orders to suit their own designs. Well, by the time 'Santa' and his elves were done sorting through it all he realized the only way to please those who had gained his ear was to completely renovate the sleigh. The trusted, tried and true reindeers Reverence, Tradition, Sacerdotal, Sacrifice, Penance, Absolute, Conversion and Holiness were removed because they distracted from what was going on in the sleigh according to this new 'Santa.' He decided we could no longer depend on those old-fashioned 'burdens' to pull the sleigh. That was old hat. If the horse and buggy had given way to the motorized vehicle, so could the sleigh. After all the new 'Santa' had to do something to bring Christmas up-to-date and into the modern world. He had tried to give the world a special gift about respect for life and preserving life but he had been rejected. No more rejections, he'd give them whatever they wanted from now on.

    Nevertheless the sleigh didn't fit the new purpose of carrying what they wanted because of the greedy demand of the children and the elves who coaxed them into clamoring for more. Thus he set out to totally change the appearance of the sleigh, stripping it down, peeling off the Latin coat and modernizing it, all in the name of progress and in vain hope that all would better understand it even though this new contraption couldn't be explained. The result wasn't what he expected. Even though this 'Santa' promised in writing that the sleigh would not be affected, that it would still serve the very same purpose as the old, trusted sleigh, it came to pass that many started to question if this 'Santa' was sane. For the sleigh he unveiled was a sterile container that was hurrahed by those intent on demeaning Christmas. To make it appealing to those who clung to hopes that Christmas would always have meaning, he had the sleigh painted up all new and given a sleek modern look, thus mezmerizing many who had been used to the old, comfortable sleigh. As uncomfortable as this new sleigh looked, it just was not functional with the old route every 'St. Nick' had taken for 2000 years. Not to worry, the elves this new 'Santa' had positioned in power would take care of that by changing the route.

    This would entail treachery and trickery for the new route would take 'Santa' farther away from the children accustomed to Christmas. And so 'Santa' and his helpers set out to re-educate the children, whom he referred to as the 'People of God' in order not to offend unworthy children who made demands previous 'St. Nicks' would never have met no matter what. He allowed them to say 'Peace on earth good will to men' instead of what it should be: 'Peace on earth to men of good will.' But the more routes and techniques that were changed, the more problems cropped up. Instead of returning to the original route, more routes were developed until 'Santa' was going around in circles going nowhere fast. His elves were bickering among themselves and countless helpers just abandoned their stations, seeking the other side where the grass seemed greener than the hats on their heads. In truth, they left the children in the lurch with no church. Things only went from bad to worse and he, too, died a lonely, miserable death.

    The next 'Santa' to come along was a smiling old elf who sought to expose the elves who took care of the coins for they were scamming funds through their own special bank. But it wasn't their bank, it was the official bank of 'St. Nick' and great scandal was afoot. To make matters worse and to protect their interests, a group of elves, comfortable in their positions, were desperate enough to do away with this turncoat 'Santa.' Thus he died a quick death, never really getting out of the gate to test drive the new sleigh.

    No sooner was he gone than a new 'Santa' was brought onto the scene. Nothing was changed. The same elves remained in their positions. This 'Santa' was different. He did not come from the land of most of the other 'St. Nicks' but from a new land, one closer to the North Pole. In fact that's what he was: a Pole. There was great rejoicing and anticipation that this new 'Santa' would bring back 'St. Nick.' They so hoped he would do away with all the diverging routes that confused so many. They prayed he would return the needed reindeers and remodel the sleigh to be more effective in reaching the children. He even displayed devotion for the Virgin. Oh, surely he would be the one to return order to everything. But the more they waited, the longer the reindeer remained in their corral next to the abandoned sleigh tended only by a handful of elves and loyal children who had been banished to another area of the workshop because they wouldn't go along with all the modernizing. Oh, he made overtures to the elves that the reindeer and old sleigh should be available to all the children, but the elves in power refused to budge. When they didn't obey 'Santa', why didn't he tell them they had better or else? Your parents tell you to do something, you do it. The same with the elves for 'Santa.' But they didn't. Why did 'Santa' allow them to disobey? Good question isn't it?

    Instead of increasing the love of Christmas, this 'Santa' set out on a path that would recognize and respect every other holiday. That made him very, very popular - more popular than Christmas itself even. Everywhere he went they clamored 'Santa II we love you.' Well, that prompted more trips on all these other routes that took him all over the world. But instead of bringing gifts that reminded all of Christmas, he watered down the meaning by making sure there were things for Kwanza, Hannukah, the Winter Solstice, Ramadan and all kinds of other days that a lot of people decided they'd celebrate instead of Christmas. Sadly, 'Santa II' went along with this concept, giving credence to every holiday as being equal, bending over backward to apologize for past 'St. Nicks' of yesteryear and their helpers for trying to make Christmas special and unique each year. He asked forgiveness for those Christmas loyalists who in the past did not recognize the liberty, equality and fraternity of the sensitivities of those who held other holidays more important than Christmas.

    No one else apologized to him. It was just one-sided. It became the popular thing to stand in line to tell him what you were offended by and sooner or later 'Santa II' would apologize for the 'sins of past Christmasses.' By doing so, 'Santa's' shop became more popular than ever with the non-believers of Christmas. He won over so many bah-humbuggers, but in the process also betrayed those loyal to what Christmas truly means. Because of that, many forgot what Christmas meant. The proof is in the production. His elves, who he appointed and is ultimately responsible for, veered from the standard duties they were expected to perform. Working conditions were greatly relaxed; toleration invaded the atmosphere and, rather than being committed to doing their best year round at the Pole, polemics took over where they no longer treasured their craftsmanship. Because of that many children became disillusioned, expecting more and bigger toys; not what they needed, but what they wanted. Voracious appetites and greed spurred them to change the Christmas season, oft times to make every day Christmas so they could have more.

    In an attempt to please everyone and cover his sleigh tracks, he authorized new 'clauses' that were sure to be okay because the three-year party that had been held was his reference point. In fact, he saw to it that everything would stem from that party. Many of the elves intended that most of what went before that 'party' was to be forgotten and 'Santa II' went along with it. This only confused the children more. But they still went along because they believed in Santa Claus - especially 'Santa II.' And after all, they didn't have to worry as much as they used to if they were naughty or nice. It didn't matter if they had been naughty, they'd still get presents. Everyone got presents whether they earned them or not.

    Think about it, kids. If you don't have to work to earn something, are you going to work hard? Of course not. You have to earn it by being honest and working hard. That's not only the American way, it's the Christmas way. It sure wasn't easy for the Blessed Mother or Saint Joseph traveling all that way on foot and donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. When was the last time you walked 75 miles? That's how far the Holy Family walked and they didn't have shoes or sidewalks, just rough rocks and sand and dirt. But they knew, as difficult as it was, that it was worth it. Heck, wouldn't you walk that far and brave the elements if you knew that it meant salvation for mankind for all time? If you still believe in Christmas, I think you would.

    I wish the 'Santa II's' elves would realize how important the birth of a baby is. It's really special - a new life. Multiply that to 40 million and you would have 40 million children. But they never got a chance to be because their potential lifes have been snuffed out - done in - killed by the terrible troll known as abortion. 40 million! I'll bet you can't count that high. I know I can't. But the elves in charge of the flocks are afraid to speak out, to change their own ways and so more innocent babies die. It is so sad. You're still young and you'll understand how terrible this is when you get older. Yes, you're going to get older. Even the Baby Jesus grew up and look what happened to Him? He died on a cross. Why? For us. For you and me so that we could understand the meaning of Christmas and the meaning of Easter when He rose from the dead to show us that we can live forever in Heaven if we abide by what He taught. Doing that isn't easy. He never said it would be. From the first 'St. Nick' on (who was called Saint Peter) that principle was taught. It means going against the grain of what is popular. It means following the real narrow path instead of the wide, easy path. That's not easy. I know, I got sidetracked a few times on that wide road. Oh, it looks so nice and seems to make things so much easier, but guess what? It really isn't. In fact it will make it that much more harder for you as you grow older.

    I hope as you grow older and stronger in your love for Jesus and His Blessed Mother, that you'll learn the significance of those special 'reindeers' and that very special 'sleigh' that carried with it so many memories of what Christ wanted to give us - Himself in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

    Now that is really special and something that will take a lifetime or more to truly understand. If it boggles your mind, don't worry, great saints haven't been able to fully comprehend it either because it's a Mystery. The important thing is to remember that all you have to do is believe. That's called Faith. That's what God expects from you because He made you to love Him, serve Him and be happy with Him in this world and the next, which, of course, is Heaven.

    To help us He gave us a set of Ten Commandments and a special Church to help us keep them and always remember Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas. To ensure this, Christ established a Church where one person - 'St. Nick' would be in charge. This has been true from St. Peter - the first Pope to John Paul II the 264th Pope.

    The problems are that ever since that 'party' in the early sixties, and moreso lately, there's a lot of talk about 'Santa II' deciding to change the role of 'St. Nick' and give up a lot of the duties and jobs 'St. Nick' or 'Santa' have always done. If he does that, then there won't be a reason to have 'St. Nick' anymore because he'll be like everyone else. Nothing special. Why people will even tell you there is no Santa Claus and you won't be able to tell them there is. Wouldn't that be sad?

    What is even sadder is that if you don't look into it, if you don't truly study your Catholic Faith and know why 'St. Nick,' the 'reindeers' and old 'sleigh' were so special, you might fall into that trap that we don't need 'St. Nick' anymore or, as so many think today, that you can do whatever you want and God will forgive and forget without you doing anything in return. Guess what. It doesn't work that way. Sadly many don't realize that until it's too late. You don't want that.

    That means you have to be prepared for when you have that face-to-face final meeting with God. It's important to realize that now while you're young so you'll develop good habits that will make that ultimate event of being judged by God go better for you. I know that's what you want. So wouldn't that mean that it is better now to be good and obey His Commandments and understand that His Church is the only way to get to Heaven? If that is true, and it is, then why do you think for nearly 2000 years the Church placed such an importance on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? Why did they have it in Latin and what did it mean? Those are important questions your parents should be asking as well. Every Catholic should.

    Now eventually all those elves are going to die - no elf lives forever. Neither do 'St. Nicks' or 'Santas.' We all have our time when God says, "Okay, your short time on earth is up. Now show Me what you learned and how you applied it. Did you use the gifts I gave you?" What would you have to say to Him? What could you show Him that you have accomplished? What will you tell Him?

    Your parents can help you with that. Ask them to get out a Baltimore Catechism so you can better understand our beautiful Faith. It is so simple and much easier to understand because holy saints helped put it together. They had to answer to God as well and so they did the best they could. Your parents have to answer to God for how they raise you. If they do that well, then you're blessed and once you get older, then you'll know how to help others the same way your parents did and their parents - your grandparents - did for them. It's called tradition.

    And tradition is what the saints and Popes of the past have given to us, passing down the truths of our Faith and the truths of Christmas over the centuries. You see, passing something from one generation to another to the next is very special. It is most cherished and something to be greatly treasured. It is called tradition. To many it is merely a fairy tale today. But to those who truly care about Christmas it will always be real and treasured for 'Once upon a time there was something wonderful called Tradition!'

Michael Cain, editor

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December 17-23, 2001
volume 12, no. 162
CATHOLIC PewPOINT commentary