Today we recall the life of St. Nicholas and remind ourselves of his constant intercession for us still.
Of all our saints, he is probably the most commercialized, but before we complain about the culture we need to look at ourselves. For centuries Catholic children grew up on stories of the lives of the saints. Were some of them exaggerated? Yes, But their primary functions was not to serve as dry history textbooks but to stir the imagination and remind us that with God all things are possible. When we stopped telling our own stories advertisers recognized the inherent power and seized on it.
As I explore the story of the real St. Nicholas what I find most valuable was not that he gave gifts or cared for the poor; many people do that. What I find most inspiring was that he tried to keep his charity secret. Secret charity, truly Christian charity benefits the giver and the receiver. As the givers, our faith calls us to give without seeking anything in return (no plaque, no announcement, not card). For the recipient we allow them to keep their dignity.
I remember well the embarrassment I felt as a child whose family qualified for reduced price school lunch because the lunch ticket was a different color, announcing to the world, every time I went to lunch, that my family was poor.
How often do our systems to help the poor simultaneously rob them of their human dignity, as if being poor is something shameful.
Let us pray on this commemoration of St. Nicholas that our hearts be filled with the same spirit of Caritas.