Monday, December 21, 2009

The Prayer of Santa Claus

We had a wonderful treat yesterday at St. Leonard's Church as Cardinal Sean O'Malley came for a pastoral visit and to celebrate the noon time Mass.  I had the honor of concelebrating the Mass with him.  As always, Cardinal Sean was a wonderful homilist and part of his homily really stuck out for me and I'd like to share that with you today.

The Cardinal mentioned that at this time of the year, children often approach him with a very important question: "Are you Santa Claus?"  And, while the Cardinal of course responds that he is not Santa, he reminds the children that the real Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, was also a bishop.

St. Nicholas was the bishop of Myra and among the interesting things about him is the fact that he is the first saint canonized in the Church who was not a martyr.  In the early years of the Church it was the tremendous heroism and courage of the martyrs, willing to die for the faith, that received the most attention and veneration of the faithful.  But, Nicholas, living in the third century after most persecution of Christians had ceased was the first to be officially recognized not for dying for the faith, but for living heroically and faithfully the Christian life.

There are many stories and legends that surround this saint and come down to us over the centuries, but they all have one common factor - his incredible charity.

St. Nicholas, was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

So, what about the Prayer of Santa Claus?  Well, the other thing that really stuck out for me in Cardinal Sean's homily was the fact that St. Nicholas was one of the bishops who attended the Council of Nicea in the year 325; one of the great Christological Councils of the early Church.

Cardinal Sean told the congregation that it was St. Nicholas who wrote the text of the great Symbol of Faith of that Council, a prayer that we pray each and every Sunday - the Nicene Creed.  So, the Nicene Creed is, in fact, the Prayer of Santa Claus.

After the homily, as we stood to profess our faith, the Cardinal invited us all to pray the Prayer of Santa Claus, and I invite you to pray it with me too:

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.

Through Him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
He came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit

He was born of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.

For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
He suffered, died, and was buried.
On the third day He rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures;
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and His kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son He is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look to the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.

St. Nicholas, pray for us!

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