Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Saint Nicholas Secret: Book Recommendation

We have a Teen Advent Retreat coming up in a few weeks, themed "St Nicholas: The Gift of Giving." I've been preparing to speak about St Nicholas, his life and the societal transformation into Santa Claus for so many around the world. I needed to do some research on this subject, so I began looking in the St George Houston Library: I scrolled the shelves looking through "Lives of the Saints," "Church History," "Spirituality" sections, but to no avail. Across the room on the lower-level shelves (eye sight for children) was the Children's books section. Would a book be there to help me with my research?

I laughed to myself - I'm going to check out the Children's section; literally having to sit down on the floor to browse the titles - yep, a very odd site!

But I came across the following book: The Saint Nicholas Secret: A Story of Childhood Faith Reborn in the Heart of a Father written by Dennis E. Engelman and published by Conciliar Press. This work can be purchased through Amazon.com HERE.

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A  small book, but very informative. Not written for a child, but actually for a parent. The author gives his own childhood experience of learning that there was no Santa Claus and explains that most children experience some degree of emotional and spiritual trauma. The short narrative continues with the author as a father worrying about that same experience for his own children. But while on a business trip in Europe he learns that St Nicholas was indeed a real person - he discovers his life and how fiction came from fact. The author describes his experience of regaining that lost hope for the miraculous stating that "a world without miracles is a world without anything to hope for or to believe in (p. 24)" and that "faith requires the miraculous (p. 35)."

This book offers insight into the approach by parents of teaching their children about St Nicholas rather than Santa Claus in the hopes of keeping them focused on the real meaning of this Great Feast of Christmas (the Nativity of our Lord, Jesus Christ).

I highly recommend it for all, not just parents. I've made my own notes from this book to include in my talk with our teens during the SOYO Advent Retreat in a few weeks that I believe will be very beneficial for them. It's not just all fantasy and make believe at Christmas time, not just all fairy tales for little children. The real story of St Nicholas can help keep us focused on the Feast of the Nativity: "St Nicholas convinces us that miracles are a natural part of life, something one has every reason to expect and depend on (p. 21)."

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"Some people have a very sad time at Christmas being busy and thinking only of themselves and this world. They get no joy from either giving or receiving gifts because they have forgotten heaven (p. 69)."

I'll end by describing the subject of my research: St Nicholas himself. "As a bishop [Myra in Lycia], he was meek and forgiving of others while bold in defense of Christianity." "To orphans he was a father, to the poor a merciful giver, to the weeping a comforter, to the wronged a helper, and to all a great benefactor (p. 46)."

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

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