Sunday, December 6th, 2009
Priest of the Most High God and mirror of goodness,
you were a good shepherd to your people and pleasing to the Lord.
Just how a fourth-century bishop noted for his charity and doctrinal purity morphed into a Nordic magician, we may never know. Still, we might ask whether our culture has benefited from this transformation.
It’s often lamented that the saints are too far removed from everyday life to be actual models for imitation. In their stead, we lift up cultural heroes whose “earthiness” seems to fix them more easily within our sphere of reference. It’s ironic then that America’s Santa Claus, the father of our cultural Christmas celebrations, is more removed from everyday life than his saintly predecessor, Nicholas of Myra.
Santa lives far away, he’s attended to by a seemingly different species of homo sapiens, and flying reindeer pull his always stocked, never depleted sled of goodies. I don’t know about you, but I seem to have little in common with Santa. St. Nicholas, on the other hand, was a real person, who lived with real people, some of whom he clothed and fed, but to all of whom he preached the Gospel. Most importantly, he celebrated the Eucharist for them. These things we can understand. These remain familiar realities.
So how have we benefited from the exchange of St. Nicholas for Santa Claus? Even culturally, what’s the advantage?
Experience teaches us that nature cannot improve upon grace. By removing St. Nicholas from the altar and making him a jolly humanitarian, our culture has created for itself a folk hero who, by making promises based on fantastic powers, eventually disappoints his adoring fans. Contrast this to the Church’s veneration of the communion of saints. When we allow the saints simply to be themselves, they remain real and reliable. As such, they can be our friends, something Santa, sadly enough, can never become.
hear our prayers for mercy,
and by the help of Saint Nicholas
keep us safe from all danger,
and guide us on the way of salvation.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
At last Wednesday’s General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI continued his reflections on the religious culture of the Middle Ages by discussing the life and thought of William of Saint-Thierry, dubbed the “singer of charity,” who was a friend and biographer of St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
GENERAL AUDIENCE ADDRESS
December 2, 2009
Dear brothers and sisters,
In a previous catechesis I presented the figure of Bernard of Clairvaux, the “Doctor of Sweetness,” great protagonist of the 12th century. His biographer, friend and admirer was William of Saint-Thierry, on whom I will pause in this morning’s reflection.
William was born in Liege between 1075 and 1080. From a noble family, gifted with a lively intelligence and an innate love of study, he frequented famous schools of the time, as that of his native city of Rheims in France. He entered into personal contact also with Abelard, the teacher who applied philosophy to theology in such a particular way as to incite many perplexities and opposition. William also expressed his own reservations, requesting his friend Bernard to take a position in confrontations with Abelard.
William responded to that mysterious and irresistible call of God, which is the vocation to a consecrated life, entering the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Nicaise of Rheims. Widespread at that time was the need to purify and renew monastic life, to render it authentically evangelical. William worked in this sense within his own monastery, and in general in the Benedictine Order. However, he met with not a few resistances in face of his attempts at reform and thus, notwithstanding the contrary advice of his friend Bernard, in 1135 he left the Benedictine abbey, took off the black habit and put on the white one, to join the Cistercians of Signy. From that moment until his death, which occurred in 1148, he dedicated himself to prayerful contemplation of the mysteries of God, always the object of his most profound desires, and to writing spiritual literature, important in the history of monastic theology.
10am Mass and Fiesta
Come bring the whole family and celebrate the gift of Our Lady of Guadalupe
to the American people with the Sisters of Life.
Authentic Mexican food!
Villa Maria Guadalupe
159 Sky Meadow Drive, Stamford, CT 06903
RSVP by December 7th; 203-329-1492