Picturing God

SistersWhat a conundrum I’ve faced collecting my thoughts for St. Anselm’s post!

For more than two years, I’ve had him in the ol’ pea brain’s draft folder… waiting, waiting, waiting until today. 


Growing up, one of my classmates asked, “Who’s your birthday saint?”

“My what?”

“I was given the name of the saint on whose feast day I was born,” the girl said.  “Weren’t you?”

“No, I was named after mom’s mother.”

(Grandmother is pictured on the left with Elvira, her younger sister.  Just look at those hardworking hands!  What a beautiful, resilient spirit!)

St. Anselm

When I created our church website, May 2008, I included a page on saints that I quickly filled with lots of web links.  Then, April of the following year I came across St. Anselm for the first time and was especially taken with his intercessory prayer to St. Nicholas.

Your fame calls to me, your miracles send me to your intercession, your works draw me to seek your help.  But why do I speak about your miracles, when your power now is greater than them all?  Why do I recount what you have done, when before God you now have supreme grace? (St. Anselm, c. 1090).

What a noble gesture to sing someone else’s high praises!  What confidence to call on St. Nicholas, our beloved Santa Claus!  I could certainly relate.  I received my special delivery from Santa within a year’s time after writing my first letter ever to him, Christmas Eve 2004, so I know firsthand of St. Nicholas’s intercessory power. 

St. Anselm turned out to be a fascinating read, but I stepped away to reflect on his writings for a while longer.  Then, rather conveniently, I forgot about the post I’d intended to write… until the proverbial rose leaf fell on this Chicken Little’s noggin.

Grandfather was born on April 21st, St. Anselm’s feast day!  So was he named for his birthday saint?

A rose

Late August of last year, Steven and I stopped by the old Esparza cemetery on Hwy 281 to visit dad’s and granddad’s grave sites.  Between 1970 and 2004, their headstones had been in the same place.  So I’d never expected to find their headstones moved from their original spots.

Overcome with grief and disappointment, I was angry.  Do their resting places mean nothing to anyone but me?  


Consoling myself by walking around the cemetery, I recalled previous visits alone and with the kids as I instinctively did what I’ve always done, leaning forward to touch each of the two headstones.  I spoke softly, first to granddad, then to dad, about their lives in the small rural community and their significance in my life.  Being there I’ve always felt connected to them, as if they’re alive in parallel universes from which they can hear and see me.

Trying hard to hold back the tears, I thought about so much more than I said.

I love you.  I love you more than you’ll ever know.  I never had the chance to tell you.  I miss you sooo much.  I don’t think that will ever change.  Coming here is the next best thing to having you close.  You walked these grounds during your lifetime just as I’m doing today.  I don’t know when I’ll be back this way again, but I know you’re always with me.  I feel your love whether I’m here or not.  We’re always together mind, heart, and soul.  I’m forever grateful that, through you, I’ve come to understand God’s love for me.

Dad left El Ranchito when he married mom, and his body returned for burial four months short of their seventh wedding anniversary.

My great-grandmother died the following year, so my grandfather moved in with his brother’s family.  Then he died a year later.  According to mom, Great-grandmother Paz and Grandfather Anselmo had vowed from the beginning— dad’s mom had died right after his birth— to be there for my father until he died.   And they kept their word!

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Dad and my grandfather were buried at the Esparza cemetery because my uncle, a very thoughtful, generous man, was married to an Esparza and lived across the highway from the cemetery.  Tío Pancho loved his brother and his nephew so much that he wanted them nearby, if only in spirit.  Now he’s buried there, too, next to his wife.  So it’s only fitting that their collective final resting place should be the same cemetery.

As for Grandfather’s name?  There’s no one alive who could tell me stories about his growing up, much less about his name. I’d like to think that being born on St. Anselm’s feast day was reason enough for his parents to name him Anselmo.

April twenty-first

St. Anselm’s big day kept getting closer and closer, but I was so sure I’d get the post written in one day that I focused on other creative tasks until the day before.

Oh, my gosh!  Was I ever wrong, as in wrrrong!

StAnselm-OLEM-Cambridge-LOPReading the first online article, reality smacked me in the face.  I immediately knew two things: why I’d put St. Anselm on the back burner for two years and why writing the post was going to take time.  Time to calm down.  Time to analyze and evaluate.  Time to come to terms with St. Anselm’s illogical reasoning.

No resolution

I tried, but I just went round and round refuting points three and four of St. Anselm’s ontological argument (1087).

(1) God is the greatest being imaginable.  (2) In the mind and/or in reality, no one exists who’s greater than God.  (3) If God exists in the mind and in reality, that cinches the deal: God is real.  The same is true if God exists only in the mind.  On the other hand, if the mind thinks of the greatest being imaginable— and that being isn’t God— then that being isn’t real.  (4) Therefore, God is real because he exists in reality and in the mind.

“If St. Anselm had presented his proposal to Dr. Weber [my dissertation methodologist at the University of Houston], he never would’ve earned his doctorate,” I told Steven.  “His logic doesn’t make sense!  How ridiculous to try to prove that God is real!  Then to have others agree that his theory’s based on a legitimate premise?  Hogwash!  It doesn’t fly!  God is based on faith, and faith can’t be measured.  So God’s existence can’t be scientifically supported.  Besides, one either believes or doesn’t.”

On and on I jabbered to Steven who was partly listening and mostly enjoying his computer games on his side of the room.

“You know, darling, I would’ve been okay accepting St. Anselm’s theory to a point.  God’s real because I have faith, but to say that I have faith because God’s real?  No.  God’s an abstraction.  And, even though we acknowledge him as creator of all, he’s not real like us.  He’s in a category all by himself.  So how can we lesser beings prove anything about him?”

I continued with my online reading while reflecting out loud.

“Just this morning I came across a painting of the crucifixion of Jesus on the ‘Picturing God’ page of Ignatian Spirituality online and realized something.  I don’t picture God on the cross.  Jesus is on the cross.  God is totally different from Jesus, just as the Holy Spirit is different from both of them.  The three are related as the Holy Trinity, but they’re three distinct entities.  And another thing: If God were real, we’d know what he looks like.  How does one visualize God when no one’s seen him?  My perception of God is uniquely different from yours and everyone else’s because it’s based not only on my imagination, but also on my personal relationship with him.”

The dilemma kept growing like James’s peach instead of resolving itself somehow.

I very much would’ve welcomed a peaceful night’s rest with a fresh start in the morning, but it wasn’t going to happen.  God wanted me to experience discomforting disequilibrium a bit longer.  Nevertheless, I distanced myself from St. Anselm and went to bed.

Coming to terms

I’d hoped for clarity on waking, but I didn’t get it.  For most of the morning, I struggled with accepting St. Anselm’s ideas.  Yet the more I thought about his logic, the more I began to understand his perspective.

Over [nine-hundred] years have passed since Anselm described the ontological argument.  Many people have refuted it [while] some have fervently defended it.  Today, there are still those who think the reasoning of Anselm is, more or less, reasonable (Villa, n. d.).

While I disagree with St. Anselm’s calling me and others like me fools, I can certainly admire his passion for so zealously wanting to build community within God’s kingdom. 

Loyalty means not that I agree with everything you say or that I believe you are always right.  Loyalty means that I share a common ideal with you and, regardless of minor differences, we fight for it, shoulder to shoulder, confident in one another’s good faith, trust, constancy, and affection (Menninger, 2002).

St. Anselm loved God so much that he wanted others to believe unquestioningly.  Without struggling.  Yet even Thomas doubted, and God didn’t love him any less.

Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it in my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”  Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:27-29; Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, 1970).

Picturing God

Saturday morning I woke up knowing I’d replace the Crucifixion as the “picturing God” widget on the church blog, but the new photo had to meet my SJC criteria: a nature scene at our church.

But what qualifies as a true representation of God?

I’ve taken thousands of photos since rejoining St. Joseph’s late April 2008; so that’s quite a mental catalog to peruse, not to mention actual time looking through photo files. 

Thinking about St. Anselm while pondering the essence of God, I serendipitously recalled our standing with Fr. Frank outside the front entrance at church before nine o’clock Mass…

Quite unexpectedly the day’s brightness ominously darkened as the sun played peekaboo on a whim.  Coolpix ready I turned to look, capturing sun rays emanating from gray-blue clouds like luminous arms interjecting a heavenward hallelujah.

Awestruck, I surrendered my undivided attention to God’s glorious, dramatic presence.  Sans proof.

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For fathers…  God our Father, we give you thanks and praise for fathers young and old.  We pray for young fathers, newly embracing their vocation; May they find the courage and perseverance to balance work, family, and faith in joy and sacrifice.  We pray for our own fathers who have supported and challenged us; May they continue to lead in strong and gentle ways.  We remember fathers around the world whose children are lost or suffering; May they know that the God of compassion walks with them in their sorrow.  We pray for men who are not fathers but still mentor and guide us with fatherly love and advice.  We remember fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers who are no longer with us but who live forever in our hearts and nourish us with their love.  Amen.

Seeking God…  O Lord, my God, teach my heart this day where and how to see you, where and how to find you.  You have made me and remade me; you have bestowed on me all the good things I possess and, still, I do not know you.  I have not yet done that for which I was made.  Teach me to seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me or find you unless you show yourself to me.  Let me seek you in my desire; let me desire you in my seeking.  Let me find you by loving you; let me love you when I find you.  Amen (St. Anselm).

To the saint whose name I bear…  My holy patron saint, your name was given to me in Baptism, that I should often think of you and endeavor to please God as you did in your life on earth.  It is my sincere desire to imitate your virtues and… one day join you in heaven singing God’s praises forever and ever.

Often I have been called by your name, but seldom have I shown your constant zeal in striving for holiness of life.  Henceforth, I promise with God’s grace to reject all that is evil and to promote all that is good.  I petition you, my holy patron saint of God, to intercede for me that I, like you, may one day enjoy the bliss of being numbered among God’s saints for all eternity.  Amen (Favorite Patron Saints, The Leaflet Missal Company, n. d., p. 27).

April 26, 2011

Today I received Father Robert’s perfectly timed daily inspiration, “God is Love,” from the Dominican Shrine of Saint Jude Thaddeus in Chicago.

“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.  God is love; the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16).

The most profound way in which we can understand the nature of God is to read the letter from the beloved apostle John.  The word “love” is repeated over and over again in describing what he knew about God.  He tells us “God is love.”  It is love that is the reason for all that God has done for us.  The creation of the world, the sending of his beloved Son, Jesus’s death on the cross, and his final glorification and our sanctification are all signs of God’s love spilling forth from the love contained in the Blessed Trinity.  When we hear that “God abides in us,” we are being told that the living presence of God permeates our entire being.  That is how close we are to God.  Therefore, we can trust God and savor his unfailing love for each one of us.  God loves us so much.

April 27, 2011

Nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced.  Even a proverb is no proverb until your life has illustrated it (John Keats, 1795-1821).

November 29, 2013

The Jewish view of God is not static or frozen in any time or place.  It is constantly growing, changing, expanding.  For even though God is constant, people are forever growing and developing.  So each person in each generation must discover, understand, describe, and relate to God in his or her own way out of his or her own life experiences (Dosick, 1995, p. 9).

September 9, 2014

“Seek God and endeavor to find him in all things” (St. Peter Claver).

January 8, 2015

We can believe what we choose.  We are answerable for what we choose to believe (Blessed John Henry Newman).

February 13, 2015

“Nothing is sweeter than love— nothing stronger, nothing higher, nothing more generous, nothing more pleasant, nothing fuller or better in heaven or earth— for love proceeds from God and cannot rest but in God above all things created” (St. Thérèse of Lisieux).

February 24, 2015

“God must be loved first in order that one’s neighbor, too, may be loved in God”
(St. Bernard of Clairvaux).

April 1, 2015

“To treat human nature as simply separate from God, and thus to attempt to construct a civil society without reference to God, is to treat of a thing that does not exist and to attempt to build a society upon that fiction” (Anthony Esolen, 2014).

April 13, 2015

“Unless you believe you will not understand” (St. Augustine of Hippo).

April 21, 2015

O man, why do you roam about so far in search of good things for soul and body?  Love the one good, in whom all goods are contained, and that will satisfy you! (St. Anselm).

June 4, 2015

“But when you take the leap to look at the world through the eyes of faith, you start seeing God’s fingerprints everywhere, creating connections so subtle, so delicate, they might pass unseen” (Cari Donaldson in Pope Awesome & other stories).

December 16, 2015

“He who does that which is displeasing to himself has discovered the secret of pleasing God” (St. Anselm).

July 15, 2016

St. Thomas teaches that love is like fire.  It produces a flame, and the flame of love is zeal.  If the fire burns intensely, then the flame will also be intense and devouring.  True apostolic zeal is the spontaneous result, the normal fruit of the intimate contact of the soul with God through love.  The more a soul is united to God by love, the more it becomes enveloped in the flame of his charity, participating in his infinite love for men, in his eternal zeal for their salvation; thus it necessarily becomes apostolic (Father Gabriel in Divine Intimacy).

September 21, 2016

God doesn’t let himself get caught in titles, names and facts.  But he lets himself be suspected.  And therefore it is only the one who prays to God, quite possibly the one who searches for silence himself, who can recognize him in the many little ideas, meetings, and happenings on the way (Kevin Burns in Henri Nouwen: His Life and Spirit).

February 12, 2017

God is not an idea or a concept for you to grasp.  God is not something to be studied or something to define.  No definition would be wide enough.  God can never be fully contained by words or be understood by the human mind.  You cannot define God but you can be with God.  You can know God (Paula D’Arcy in The Divine Spark).

April 18, 2017

“What is faith, save to believe what you do not see?” (St. Augustine).

April 21, 2017

Make frequent spiritual aspirations to God by means of short but ardent movements of the heart.  Marvel at his beauty, implore his help, cast yourself in spirit at the foot of the cross, adore his goodness, and beg him that you may be saved eternally.  Give him your heart and offer your soul to him thousands and thousands of times.  Fix the eyes of your soul upon his gentle face and hold him by the hand, just as a small child does with his father (St. Francis de Sales).

April 23, 2017

God did not abandon Thomas in his doubt, nor does he abandon us.  Our God, after all, is full of compassion and patience.  Doubt is a wound we all share.  It is a wound that God longs to heal with his divine mercy (Peter J. Vaghi in Meeting God in the Upper Room: Three Moments to Change Your Life).

May 26, 2017

One beat of your heart, properly directed, the slightest movement of your free will, can mean more to the triune God than all the gyrations of sun, moon, stars, and sea from time’s first moment until time’s final end.  In order that you might say, “I believe in God…,” the heavens were one time moved (Fr. M. Raymond, O.C.S.O. in Spiritual Secrets of a Trappist Monk).

June 9, 2017

One cannot understand God without first believing in God.  If you have any interest in knowing what’s true, you must first have faith.  It is by faith that God purifies your heart.  Unless you first abandon yourself to God, you will never know God.  The more you love God, the deeper your faith, and the more love and faith you possess, the more you know what’s true (Jon M. Sweeney in The Saint vs. The Scholar: The Fight Between Faith and Reason).

July 3, 2017

“Thomas [the apostle]… helps us learn from Jesus the true meaning of mature faith, encouraging us to persevere as disciples of Christ” (Pope Benedict XVI).

July 4, 2017

Traditionally, he is called “Doubting Thomas.”  Yet doubt is a wound that each of us shares.  It is not necessarily a fatal wound, nor is it a flat-out rejection of our faith.  I can picture myself that evening having a similar doubt.  Maybe you can as well.  We certainly have experienced doubt in our efforts to explain the faith to others.  Sometimes we are rejected.  More often, we have to unveil the beauty of our faith over time and with utmost patience.

God did not abandon Thomas in his doubt, nor does he abandon us.  Our God, after all, is full of compassion and patience.  Doubt is a wound we all share.  It is a wound that God longs to heal with his divine mercy (Peter J. Vaghi in Meeting God in the Upper Room).

July 10, 2017

So, the beauty of nature reflects the beauty of God.  For those who will not close their eyes and who harden not their hearts, beautiful things are seen as the fingerprints of God.  “A whirlwind and clouds are the dust of his feet.”  All things are his messengers, making known his goodness, his justice, and his power (Fr. Killian J. Healy, O. Carm in Awakening Your Soul to the Presence of God).

July 28, 2017

Lord, I long to see you.  With my own eyes, I want to see you myself, see you for who you really are.  Not through another’s eyes.

I’ve heard so much about you.  How much is opinion?  How much is hearsay?  How much is truth?  I want to know for myself.  I want to hear with my own ears.  Please come near, Lord, as you pass by today.

I am out on a limb, waiting for you, out of my comfort zone.  And as you come, overwhelm me with the wonder that it is not I who seek you, nearly so much as it is you who seeks me (Sonja Corbitt & Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers in Ignite: Read the Bible Like Never Before).

February 5, 2020

The life of the blessed is an eternal contemplation: they see God, love him, and are united to him in an indissoluble embrace.  This is the true life (Luis M. Martinez in Worshipping a Hidden God: Unlocking the Secrets of the Interior Life).


Links of interest…  Be amazed…  Best description of God, ever…  Christian faith is not blind belief…  Doubting Thomas & faith in the resurrection…  El Ranchito cemeteries: Esparza / Zepeda…  Embrace the four eyes within you…  Father is a complex metaphor for God…  Genealogy: find a grave / online TX records…  God confirmationis an artist / or man…  God’s world & our place in it (book)…  Handing down the faith: Catholicism is caught, not taught…  How a little healthy self-doubt helped me stop doubting God…  How God is present in us / to prove that God doesn’t exist / we long for the face of God…  I believe in God…  James & the giant peach…  Life of Jesus (crucifixion)…  On being human & the need to wonder…  Picturing God: finding God / Ignatian Spirituality / in all things…  Saints: birthdaydate / heroesname / patron / quote of the day…  See life through God’s eyes…  St. Anselm: ABC’s / about / archbishop / Benedictine monk / biography / bishop & doctor / desire for the vision of God / lessonson God’s existence / ontological argument & criticism / philosopher / prayer (to St. Nicholas) / seeking satisfaction & mercy / slave of religious liberty / theologian (more) / timeline…  St. Fidelis: about / biography / Capuchinfeast (Apr 24) / Mark Roymartyr / memorial / prayer (more / readings) / profile…  St. Frances of Rome: Finding God in the little things…  St. Nicholas: bishop / chaplet / feast / prayers / rosary / saint / society / who he is…  St. Thomas: of great faithquestioning your faithseeing is not believing…  Waiting for God…  Wisdom of Wolves: book / how wolves change rivers / movie from Simple Truths

WP posts…  Concrete abstraction…  Dear God…  Faith and prayer…  For all time…  Gifts  Letter to Santa…  Lingering memory…  Little gifts…  Making meaning…  Mourning joy…  One prayer…  Soulful…  St. Anselm Church…  St. Jude novena…  Two takes…  Undeniable familiarity

Letter to Santa

Our dear friend, Sam, forwarded Jesus Is Better Than Santa to me a few days before Christmas.  It was just what I needed to get started with my post on St. Nicholas.

“I’ll send you the link when I’m done,” I emailed back.

Looking for Santa

Early October I began setting up the “Kids” page on our church website.  Since I really didn’t know much about Santa, our dear St. Nicholas, I wanted kids to learn about his background; but I also wanted fun stuff— stories, prayers, games, things to do, and more— without the commercialism.

Tough expectations, I thought, until I serendipitously received the first link, Santa Claus and the North Pole, from a friend who’d discovered the site with her granddaughters.

I was impressed with the site’s versatility and the recipes from the kitchen of Mrs. Claus; but I persisted with my online search nevertheless until found a few worthwhile sites on the life of St. Nicholas, his wonder-worker status, and an interesting chapel tour.

Thinking about Christmas

Growing up, I neither visited Santa at the department store nor wrote him a letter; and I never asked for Christmas gifts.

Sure, my brother and I were curious about wrapped gifts hidden in the closet or under the tree.  Christmas presents were a big mystery to unravel, but on Christmas Day we were glad for whatever we received.

As an adult, however, I didn’t want to participate in gift exchanges at work or at home with either family or friends.  I went through the motions ’cause guilt is an awful monster to deal with, but my heart was never in it.  Too costly, too time-consuming, too stressful.

Santa’s mailbox

I’ll admit, though, that one Christmas season— the first time I’d driven to the main post office for stamps during the holidays— I discovered Santa’s mailbox near the entryway.


All the way home, I imagined myself driving back to the post office to mail my letter to Santa late Christmas Eve.  I’ll finally have my chance, I giggled.

I was really excited, but the weather turned bad.  I decided the drive wouldn’t be worth my while, but I did give the letter a lot of thought.

My kids no longer live at home, so they wouldn’t find out.  Besides, if anyone saw me mail a letter to Santa, they’d think I was dropping it off for a child. 

Bottom line?

I really wanted to do it, but I didn’t know what to ask for much less how to write my letter; so the bad weather merely gave me an out.

Mixed-up thoughts

Looking back I have to wonder what I told my kids about Santa when they were young.

Growing up mom used to say, “Christmas isn’t about the presents.  It’s every little thing we do for each other throughout the year,” but my perspective differs somewhat.

While we agree that Christmas Mass commemorates the joyous celebration of the birth of Christ and sparks heartfelt gratitude throughout the year, we totally disagree on the commercial aspect of Christmas.

I prefer sharing homemade goods and spending time together talking, laughing, eating, not gifting last-minute, store-bought presents stemming from guilt.

Living on a shoestring budget, I spoke to Mom off and on about making Christmas shopping less stressful.

“Why don’t we draw names instead?  The adults will be fine with one gift, and the kids will still receive gifts as usual,” I suggested.  “In fact, I’m perfectly fine not receiving any gifts.  All of us already have everything we need, and we can buy what we want on our own.”

“You don’t have to buy anything if you don’t want to,” Mom told me.

Based on mom’s tone of voice and her facial expressions, Christmas traditions would continue as they had for years.  I’d be excused from gift giving, but she wouldn’t bring up gift exchange options to the other family members.

Discomforting disequilibrium

In essence I was the only one granted immunity from the insanity.  This meant that everyone would shop for everyone else while I didn’t have to unless, of course, my guilt got the better of me.

But why does it have to be this way?

Mom’s mixed messages were a year-round agony.  With each month of the year Christmas loomed big, bigger, biggest.  Spending at Christmas meant having to spend on other special occasions, too.

I saw it as a never-ending money pit.  And never mind that I’ve never enjoyed shopping for others because I had to do it.

Additionally, my nonconformity weighed me down so much that I dreaded the holidays.  I was resentful of the commercialism, resentful that I couldn’t relax during our two weeks off from school, resentful of having to accept mom’s ways.

If Christmas is truly about celebrating God’s gift to us, then why bother with the commercialism?

Nevertheless, my kids always sided with mom.  They loved gifts, so Christmas was all about presents and being at mom’s house during the holidays.

I, on the other hand, was always the family misfit who never got Christmas right.


Then came the first of two of the most grueling years of my life in 2004, thanks to the self-inflicted UH chaos that both exasperated and revitalized me.

My only escape came very late each night when I flopped onto bed with my rosary beads.  As I lay in an almost catatonic state in the dark, the repetitive prayers were fulfilling and purposeful until I’d peacefully fall asleep.

That entire summer I took three whopper online courses that left time for only late morning Mass on Sunday and, on occasion, quick stops for supplies at Kmart, Staples, and Walmart on the way home.

Twelve-thirty Mass at St. Mary’s was the big event in my week.  I celebrated my visits to God’s house by dressing up for the special occasion.   I told God I needed only him in my solitary life.  He was with me day and night through my doctoral studies and all else.

Autumn followed, accompanied by my elementary school teaching assignment and all the extras: grading papers, writing lesson plans and timelines, and so much more.

My responsibilities grew enormously as the semester progressed, and Christmas break included developing a training session— a last-minute holiday assignment from the principal— that my teacher-buddy, Elsa, and I were to present to our campus paraprofessionals our first day back at work, January 2005.

Christmas Eve

Although Elsa and I had met a couple of times to plan the overview, the responsibility was mine alone; so I put in very long hours each day.  I enjoyed the self-imposed challenge, but sometime past eight P.M. on Christmas Eve I was suddenly distracted.

Sitting by the window in the front bedroom I looked onto the street from my thoughtful spot at the computer and had a revelation.

I’ll write a letter to Santa.  Anyway, God will listen.  Together they’ll work it out.

For almost three-and-a-half hours I worked on the letter.  It wasn’t easy.  I had to be sure my words were precise but, eventually, I organized my thoughts into three lists: what I want, what I’m willing to compromise on, the deal breakers. 

Then, just as I completed the letter, I heard my neighbors’ grown children out in their front yard so I looked out the window from where I sat.

What’s going on?

“Merry Christmas!  Merry Christmas!” Lucy’s kids and grandkids shouted as they hopped around gleefully on their front lawn next door.

It was midnight, and they were all excited.

What are they saying? 

I couldn’t make out what they were so ecstatic about.  I listened intently, couldn’t believe my ears, went to the front door, opened it to take a look and…

Sure enough.  It was snowing!!! 

Would you believe it?

As I’d completed my letter to Santa snow had fallen, this based on when the commotion from Lucy’s kids had started.  Nevertheless, being a scientist at heart, I was quite skeptical.  As far as I knew Brownsville hadn’t seen snow in my lifetime.  Or maybe even at all.

I closed the door and walked back to my work space, and he doorbell rang.

Bah, humbug!

My next-door neighbor had sent over a plate of food with Eric and Mary.  Lucy’s grandkids were so wired that they went on and on about the snow, which I insisted was only ice.

Once the kids left I returned to my letter, printed it, and taped it onto the closet door.

I continued working on the prototype for the paraprofessionals’ inservice till four-something.  I’d attended early evening Mass, so I didn’t have to think about being out and about in the morning.

On rising hours later I opened the front door.  Everything was covered with white slush.  The sun was out and Lucy’s family, still making a big deal out of the snow, was outdoors.

I refuted the obvious.  Snow could never fall in Brownsville.  It’s way too tropical for that.  But one thing I could bank on was having a legitimate excuse not to drive to mom’s for Christmas dinner and have to deal with the guilt of not having bought gifts.

I continued working without giving Santa’s letter a second thought that day.

Between then and fall 2005, however, I did read through the three lists to Santa at least twice.  I wasn’t wishing.  I was merely checking my lists to see if I still agreed with what I’d written.

I forgot the snow as if it’d never happened and, the following year, refused to acknowledge the unexpected miracle even when the book with the Christmas photos sold in stores.

I never made the connection between the specialness of the snow and my letter to Santa on Christmas Eve!

Unexpected happenings

Interestingly nonetheless, something did begin to happen less than eleven months later.

Immersed in my studies and way too inundated by work to have paid attention, my life, personally and professionally, began to change.  The more I tried to stay on track with daily decades-old routines the more I was drawn, pushed, and forced in other directions.

My life was unbelievably comical and out of control!  Every situation was exaggerated and discombobulated.  Caution led to upheavals; acceptance to change, good outcomes.  Figuratively, doors slammed in my face in my relatively-stable-until-then life.

At the same time I glided through unknowns that I’d never seriously considered would lead to my future life— all this after Dr. Weber, our research methodologist, had advised against making changes during our doctoral studies.  We had too much going on in to tackle anything else.

God’s gift

Nevertheless, God introduced Steven and me through a smile, a simple electronic postcard through a trusted Christian network.

Scenarios evoked laughter and disbelief as our life became a flowchart of endless possibilities pushing us together quickly.  Life spun out of control beyond imagining.

We fell in love with each other’s mind before meeting face to face for the first time in one month’s time, Friday, December second.  Totally nutz!

The more we tried to slow down our long-distance relationship, the more we were catapulted to events and dates we hadn’t even discussed so we agreed to let God take over our lives.  We stopped fighting the inevitable, since God’s master plan included a rushed special delivery in time for our first Christmas.

Continued affirmations

Even now we’re still God’s bestest gift to each other.  And God continues to stay in touch through impeccably timed  Easter egg messages.

Three lists revisited

For instance, several months after we got married I serendipitously discovered my letter to Santa.  Reading through the lists I couldn’t believe my eyes!  Every single item on the what I want list had come true down to the very last detail.  And then some!

My eyes watered as I recalled Christmas Eve 2004.  God had indeed been listening!

God’s master plan

Mind you, we have our days like everyone else.  We struggle, we fall, we pick ourselves up.  But, on occasion, we wonder what if until God, in his infinite goodness, faithfully communicates through perfectly timed messages like those received during Mass last Saturday.

First, my eyes watered as I read through the previous day’s meditation: Zechariah’s doubts changed to trust and belief in God’s message.

Lord, let me trust you, even in difficult times.  Fill me with your Spirit, and equip me to proclaim what you have spoken in the silence of my heart! (the Word among us, Advent 2008, p. 42).

Next, Father Xaviour’s homily resonated with the fullness of truth as if he’d known exactly what I’d been feeling.

Accept and become a servant of God’s master plan.  With God nothing is impossible.

Then, after communion, the gold goose egg dropped out of the sky.

Heavenly Father, I ask you for a sign today.  Show me that you are with me….  Let me rely on you as the one who provides for my deepest longings (p. 43).

The enormity of the triple-treat revelation blew me away!

Ask, receive

Looking back, my letter to Santa led to God’s gift of love. 

“Ask and you shall receive… for the one who asks, receives” (Mt. 7:7-8).  And then “look for signs of God’s love, even silly signs, signs that make sense only to us” (Meyer, 2008).

The unexpected miracle of snow at midnight Christmas Eve, 2004, had been God’s special way of acknowledging my request.  Just as it’d been his wish that Santa deliver the gift of marriage within a year’s time.


Santa, wonder-worker

Finally, revisiting Sam’s forward, yes.  Jesus is better than Santa.

But personally?  I prefer to keep Christmas year ’round.

When needs are “great and the crisis so near,” it’s okay to turn to Santa, our dear
St. Nicholas, the wonder-worker, for “a happy ending” (Perrotta in the Word among us, Advent 2008, p. 55).

When we humble ourselves and accept God’s master plan, Santa does indeed make good on his deliveries regardless of the time involved.

Merry Christmas!!!

December 23, 2012

Mary went without delay to communicate her joy to her cousin Elizabeth….  This is the real commitment of Advent: to bring joy to others.  Joy is the true gift of Christmas, not expensive presents that demand time and money (Pope Benedict XVI in the Word among us, Advent 2012, p. M59).

December 9, 2013

God, our Father, we pray that through the intercession of St. Nicholas you will protect our children.  Keep them safe from harm and help them grow and become worthy in your sight.  Give them strength to keep their faith in you; and to keep alive their joy in your creation.  Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.  Amen.

May 23, 2014

When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her.  The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her.  The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women (Venerable Fulton J. Sheen).

September 30, 2014

“The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart” (St. Jerome).

November 24, 2015

We do not define ourselves as men or as women through our work, our house, our health, or our reputation.  We define ourselves as men and women through the way we love (Chiara Corbella Petrillo).

December 1, 2015

“Love consists of a commitment which limits one’s freedom— it is a giving of the self, and to give oneself means just that: to limit one’s freedom on behalf of another”
(St. John Paul II).

December 18, 2015

“Love between man and woman cannot be built without sacrifices and self-denial”
(St. John Paul II).

July 6, 2016

Jesus has invested marriage with a dignity which represents something quite new in reference to all that we have considered until now.  He raised it to the rank of a sacrament.  He made of this sacred bond a specific source of grace.  He transformed marriage— already sacred in itself— into something sanctifying (Dietrich von Hildebrand, Marriage: The mystery of faithful love).

December 6, 2016

“A happy family is but an earlier heaven” (George Bernard Shaw).

“Our first great responsibility is to be a family, a community, revealing first to one another something of God’s love and concern and tenderness” (Saint Teresa of Calcutta).

December 6, 2017

It’s well known that Saint Nicholas, a sixth-century bishop, is behind our use of the secular “icon” of Christmas, Santa Claus.  The legends of Nicholas involve his generosity to those in need.

The details of Nicholas’ life are few; but legends often have a kernel of truth and, if so, he forms a worthy basis for reflection during this season of preparation for Christmas.  Advent is a time to expect God’s intervention in our lives.  It may be dramatic, or— more typically— quiet and perhaps not immediately evident.  God may even use a bit of stealth, as the legendary Nicholas did, to gift us.  May we keep the windows of our heart open! (Greg Friedman, OFM in Advent with the Saints: Daily Meditations).

Pdf file…  Jesus is better than Santa

Links of interest…  All about Christmas: festive family fungames, coloring, & more / inspiration / recipes / songs / North Pole / stories & poems (more) / traditions…  Doing what Christ has done…  Excited for Christmas, but not the Christmas season…  Five unexpected lessons about thinking…  He isn’t Santa, but he gives us what we need…  Isaiah: The prophet of Christmas…  Lessons in growing up…  Marriage: adventure & crisis / as martyrdom / Catholic / dangers of “filler relationships” / five steps to surviving a crisisfostering holy matrimony / lifetime / sacramental light in the darkness / trusting in God’s help…  Materialism of Santa Claus & spirituality of Baby Jesus…  Prayer of a single person…  Presence not presents…  Santa Claus: about / do you believe inNorth Pole Times (news, games, & more) / origin / sanctitysetting up a news alert / village / website (site index)…  St. Nicholas: about (more) / anecdote / biography / bishop (more) / chapel tour / chapels / crafts (more) / devotions / ecards / facts / feast (Dec 6) / gift giver (more) / history / legacymiracles & deeds / patron (more) / prayers / saintsocieties / still lives at the North Polestory / truth / visit / what he looks likewonder-worker…  Strange story of a real-life Santa Claus…  White Christmas…  Why my kids get letters from St. Nick every year the Word among us…  You better watch out— St. Nicholas is coming to town

WP posts…  Advent prayers…  Blue heaven…  Budding relationships…  Christmas blessings…  Christmas year ’round…  Church time blues…  Concrete abstraction…  Faith and prayer…  Making meaning…  Morning exchanges…  My Franciscan Crown…  October novena…    Oh, happy day…  On being Christian…  One prayer…  Our Lady…  Picturing God…    Powerful intercessor…  Prayer power…  Promise of hope…  Revisiting St. Simon…  Santo Niño…  St. Anthony Claret…  St. Jude novena…  St. Jude Shrine (Chicago)…  St. Jude Shrine (Corpus Christi, TX)…  Sweet Jesus…  Thanksgiving prayers