Growing Apologist

Becoming a Defender of Truth

Good Ol’ St. Nick

on December 6, 2011

A reflection on how myths can be used to reveal the love of God.

There are many different kinds of myths.  Often times when we hear the word ‘myth’ we think of some story that had been believed to be truth at sometime, but not any longer and cannot be verified scientifically or historically.  Perhaps we think of other types of stories that are created not to explain any truth but to explain away an issue (“I swear, Aunt Pam, it was a really BIG ghost that stole that cookie”). Then there is the definition of a ‘myth’ from the Catholic perspective, one that I have been struggling to grasp.  It is a definition much like the first, but with a few subtle differences.  The first is that the myth is not “a story believed to be truth” but a story given to us through divine revelation from God.  The second is that the truth behind the story still stands to this day and is verifiable through the Church teachings, the bible, and history.  Vague, I know.

Let’s approach it this way:  Santa Claus is a well known myth.  But what kind of myth is it?  Let’s think about it.  Santa Claus is some overweight, jolly, white bearded man who is full of great charity and love for all.  He has this list, as we all know, and he checks it twice for children who have behaved enough to receive a gift from him.  Then in the middle of the night, like a thief, he flies around the world and sneaks gifts into the homes of those children on his list.  One can get lost in some of the ludicrous ideas in this myth—such as the reindeer, traveling to every child in one night, the use of elves to produce the gifts.  Such a character surely could not exist.

Enter St. Nickolas.  No, not the Santa Claus St. Nick, but a man who once lived a full life in God around the year 345.  He was the Bishop of Myra and known for his charity.  The legend goes that St. Nickolas heard of a man, who in suffering great poverty, felt forced to put his three maiden daughters out onto the street for prostitution.  Out of charity and love, St. Nickolas threw three bags of gold through the window of the man’s house in the middle of the night, rescuing the girls from a life of sin.  We can see how the myth of Santa Claus was created from this legend.

I would propose that there is more to the myth than just a story of some ancient man, but reveals an even greater truth about the Creator.  This is the truth of God’s great charity and love for all, how he steals through the night bearing gifts for those of his children whose names are found in the Book of Life.  Our joy in giving others Christmas gifts, of surprising our children with presents sneaked under the Christmas tree in the middle of the night, is a small reflection of God’s great joy in giving us the greatest gift there ever was and is: his Love in the form of Christ.

Happy St. Nickolas day and Merry Christmas.

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3 responses to “Good Ol’ St. Nick

  1. I love St. Nicholas! And the way you tell the story makes me love him even more. But he ain’t the Santa Claus we see on television who gives people brand new cars with bows on them (and not even needy people!) or goes into the house of a family whose tree is already chock-full of presents and gives them a diamond ring in the stocking. The Santa Claus I respect is the one who helps the poor, and like you said, St. Nick saved these girls from a life of sin. The one we usually see on TV leads people to a life of greed (or encourages it.) Christmas isn’t about presents.

    Great blog post! 🙂

  2. […] and lasted exactly 40 days until December 25. During this time, we celebrated the feast day of St. Nicholas (Dec. 6), Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Dec. 8), and Optional […]

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