All, Culture/Life, Faith

I Believe 🎅🏻

Note: I wrote this short essay some years back as a school assignment inspired by NPR’s “This I Believe” program. I think it’s an appropriate time of year to retrieve from the annals and share with you all. A few minor edits have been made. 😉🎅🏻

I believe in Santa Claus. It might seem strange that a 21-year-old college student claims to believe in Santa Claus, but why shouldn’t I? From “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” to “Miracle on 34th Street,” there has been story after story that reaffirms faith in the jolly resident of the North Pole and in all he represents, and I have always eaten these stories up like Santa eats the milk and cookies left out for him on Christmas Eve.

Growing up, it was part of my family’s ritual at Christmas time to go visit “Legendary Santa” in a city not far from us. My parents would dress up my brother and me, and we’d go wait in line, sometimes for hours on end, to get our chance to sit on Santa’s lap, have our picture taken, and make our requests known to this magical gift-giver. This was a momentous occasion, and we were always practically shaking with fright and excitement. In fact, I was so terrified that it wasn’t until I was five years old that I would even sit on Santa’s knee. Every year prior, except when I was a baby and didn’t know any better, the picture with Santa invariably has me latched on for dear life to my Mother, head turned away from my brother and Santa Claus. Nevertheless, I still loved Santa!

Come Christmas Eve, (even after Santa and I were on speaking terms), I could hardly sleep; I would lie in bed barely daring to move or breathe, my head nearly completely covered by my blankets. However, without fail, Christmas morning would ring with shouts of “He came!” and “Thank you, Santa!”

One year I was totally flabbergasted because under the tree was a doll for which I had secretly been wishing; I hadn’t even told my parents, but somehow, Santa knew. Another year, a doll of my Mom’s, which she had handed down to me and which needed some repairs, mysteriously went missing from my room, a candy cane left in its place. Sure enough, on Christmas morning, there was the doll beautifully restored under the Christmas tree. Christmas magic indeed!

Now I’m not saying I literally believe there is a man who lives at the North Pole and delivers presents on Christmas Eve, but I’m also not saying I don’t believe. After all, the legacy of Santa Claus began with an historical man, St. Nicholas, a bishop who legend says helped a needy father pay for his three daughters’ weddings. Moreover, Christmas is a time when I celebrate Christ’s birth. It is remembered as a time of miracles and of love.

I believe this is what Santa Claus represents. He is a reminder that there is still mystery and wonder and innocence in the world, and that love, joy, and generosity are timeless. So yes, I am twenty-one, and I believe in Santa Claus, and I plan to keep believing in him throughout my life because his spirit and what he stands for is undoubtedly good and worthy of belief.

Image credit: http://www.reusableart.com/santa-21.html (This picture was used to illustrate Clement Moore’s “Night Before Christmas”
All, Faith, Family

A Time to Trust

The French language has two words that both signify “to know.”  Savoir indicates knowing of or about something or how to do something while connaitre implies more intimate knowledge: to know a person or to be familiar with someone or something.  One could say that savoir is a more academic, aloof “knowledge about” while connaitre indicates a relationship.  Both words mean “to know” yet the level of knowing is as different as the shallow and deep ends of a swimming pool.

Belief also, I think, is a bit of a sliding scale. There is a vast difference between giving one’s intellectual assent to something –a savoir-type of belief– and a deep-down-in-the-heart-and-soul, connaitre-type of belief.

You might be thinking to yourself: “this parsing of words and meanings is all fine and good, but what is the point of all this?”

Well, this sliding scale of knowledge and belief is, arguably, a good description of faith in God and of spiritual progress.

I am in a season of life when many things are changing in little and big ways both for myself and for my family.  Sometimes I wish I could just wave a magic wand and fix some of the challenges with which we are presented.  I am recognizing more and more my “control freak” tendencies.  Sometimes it is hard to know where one’s responsibility lies or how much responsibility one holds.

When we’re children, if we are blessed with a loving family (which thankfully I was), our world is filled with security and comfort.  We are shielded from the nastier sides of life and obviously the big, stressful decisions do not rest on a child’s shoulders.  However, as we grow up, the monumental realities of life, both good and bad, become inevitable acquaintances.

Yet, we are still meant to have that child-like peace and security.  Christ tells us, ” ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven'” (Matthew 18:3). God is our Father and we are His beloved children.  Yet so often we can accurately be called “ye of little faith.”

I think the only way to develop that child-like faith, that unwavering trust, which brings peace and lifts burdens, is to have a personal relationship with Jesus.  To get to know him through prayer, Scripture, the sacraments, and through the wisdom of others.  To not simply know or to believe in a savoir, detached manner, but to believe and to know in a relational, connaitre manner.

To truly believe in His goodness and love, His promises and His providence.  To remember His blessings and help in past insistences.  To remember that He is our Savior and our Friend, Who always, always has our best interests in mind.  And also, to remember that just as God is working in your heart, He is also working on the hearts and minds of those around you, and maybe, just maybe He is asking you to have a little more trust in them as well.

Fr. Jacques Philippe writes in Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart, “In order to resist fear and discouragement, it is necessary that through prayer–through a personal experience of God re-encountered, recognized and loved in prayer–we taste and see how good the Lord is (Psalm 34).”

In A.J. Russell’s daily devotional book, God Calling, one of Christ’s exhortations is to trust Him for everything.  That really hit home with me recently.   When He says everything, He literally means everything!  From the majorly consequential to the little trivia of everyday living.  All our hopes, desires, worries, and concerns for ourselves and for others.  EVERYTHING.

Another frequent assurance in the book is that “All is well.”  A reminder that Jesus is the One with the final say.  And He is working all things for our good (Romans 8:28).

My great-Uncle George, for whom this blog is named, certainly must have had a goodly amount of trust in God when he decided to go to Canada and join the Royal Air Force during World War II.  That was, undoubtedly, one of the biggest decisions of his life.

If I let it (and I am trying to do so), this season of life can be an opportunity to strive to develop this type of trust in the Lord. But I have a sneaking suspicion that this will also be a life-long lesson.  It is hard for us prideful humans to let go of control, but so often when we finally do surrender a person, a situation, a problem to God, the solution readily becomes evident.

I will leave you with some words of encouragement from the Psalms:

“Commit your way to the Lord: trust in him and he will act.” (Psalm 37:5)

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:11)

Serenity Prayer