The Santa Claus Trial

The Santa Claus Trial is a short story that I had written for a prior class. It’s a work of fiction that I attempted to incorporate the theology of two of the more philosophical and pastoral Catholic theologians in my opinion. I would say it’s still a work in progress, but maybe it’ll spark your own thoughts on the Festival of Incarnation. Enjoy.

dante700

At nine p.m. on Christmas Eve, snow had begun to accumulate on the road while Karl and his wife Margret were driving to his Father’s house approximately an hour away from Baltimore. “Why do your parents still insist on living in Baltimore?” asked Margret.

“I suppose because of its roots with the old Catholic communities in the 1960s when Thomas grew up,” Karl explained. “You know where ole’ Thomas grew up they didn’t even say from what neighborhood they came from when they met someone new. Instead, they would say what Church they attended. Complete silliness.”[1]

Margret sighed, “You really should call him Dad or Grandpa in front of your son, Karl.”

Karl then looked at his son through the rearview mirror and with a smirk said, “He’s asleep, you have nothing to worry about dear.”

It was Christmas Eve and naturally Karl’s mind begin to ponder on past Christmases as he watched the snow melt as it hit the windshield. “Christmas and the Church is really a waste of time. It’s a myth. It’s nothing more than a celebration for a patriarchal structure to continue to inflict its influence on those who are too simple minded. A structure that uses the falsehood of charity to keep the social structures in order.” as Karl explained.

“It does appear that way, those people don’t even believe in science,” laughed Margret. “The religious also continue to enslave women by preventing them from controlling their own bodies. We should have access to whatever services we desire!”

“The funny part of all of it is that you know what I believe led me to reject the Church? It was Santa Claus, as soon as I found out from kids at school that the whole concept was made up, I knew the whole idea of religion was built on sand.”

At that moment, when Karl spoke those words, a man with gray eyes, fairly thin with gray hair and traces of a beard settling in on his face found himself held in a dimly lit room. The man of average height looked around to see the place he was being held, he saw the walls were constructed of stone with moisture visible to the eye that created a dampness in the air. “Thomas,” he thought to himself, “Thomas is my name, my birthday is September 25th, 1946.”

As he realized who he was and still attempting to figure out where the place he was being held at during the present, a hooded stranger approached as if materializing out of the shadows. The stranger then spoke, “I am the Inquisitor, who are you?”

“I am Thomas.”

The Inquisitor, dressed in a new flowing linen robe that was the color of cream with a border pattern of sparkling gold asked, “Do you know why you are here?[2][3]

“I haven’t the slightest clue, my last memory was celebrating Christmas eve dinner with my family, well except for my son Karl and his wife Margaret and their child. They had missed Christmas eve mass and also dinner. I didn’t want to stay up all night having to get up early for presents the next morning. So I went to sleep and now I am sitting here before you.”

The Inquisitor at this point started to light candles at a table with such precision that it was as if he was preparing for a ceremony. When he lit both end candles of the table, the dim light revealed two other figures sitting there. “You have been accused of Paganism, do you deny it?” asked the Inquisitor with a smirk appearing from below his shadowy hood.

“Of course, I deny it, I was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church and have gone to mass every Sunday,” answered Thomas.

“Did you celebrate the feast of Christmas?” asked the Inquisitor with force.

“Yes, absolutely I did!” replied Thomas very firmly.

“Including the tradition of giving presents from Santa Claus with your children?”

“Yes…” Thomas answered hesitantly.

The Inquisitor responded, “Then you admit to practicing paganism. The practice of Santa Claus is nothing more than a pagan ritual of initiation from childhood to adulthood. It creates doubt in the faith of a child leading them to renounce Christ and leading them to sin. It had created doubt in your son, Karl, who now has convinced his wife Margret of the values of materialism. Karl now wishes to teach his children the foolishness of the myth of religion using the tradition of Santa Claus that you practiced with him as an example. As Christ had warned us of leading the little ones away from faith, you have tied a milestone around your neck.”[4][5]

“Santa Claus is a re-imagination of St. Nicholas, how can practicing it be paganism? No, I reject your charge, I am not guilty!” Thomas pleaded while stomping the floor.

The Inquisitor laughed amused to what he perceived as Thomas’ lack of fundamental understanding. “Very well, the council sitting here will examine your case and determine if you are indeed innocent as you claim.”

Thomas beginning to tremble with fear from the accusations looked up to see a man with a kind face approach him, the man spoke, “I am a but a simple Polish priest and I say to you Thomas as the angel said to Mary giving the good news that she would be the mother of God, “Be not afraid!” Her son, Christ our Lord and Saviour, gave the same words to Peter when he told Christ to depart from him, “Do not be afraid from now on you will be catching men.”[6][7][8]

The Inquisitor replied with a rebuttal, “He most certainly should be afraid for promoting the pagan idol of Santa Claus, who brings forth superstition from the country of Idolatry. An idol that has led to the disbelief of God that has manifested in his own son. He now substitutes faith in God with debauchery and the drunkenness of Bacchus or Saturnalia.”[9][10]

The Polish priest responded while walking behind Thomas, who was still sitting in the chair before the council, “So says you, The Gospel upholds moral order of the universe, not you. During the Christmas season, the profound wonder of faith of our redeemer is expressed. I would say through the practice of Santa Claus with his children, a father simply gave forth his love, God’s love, into the world. What does your faith, Inquisitor, profit from if your faith produces no love in the world?[11][12] Did God not deliver us his love by giving the world his only son?”[13]

“Spare me your sermon on the philosophy of love Polish priest!” retorted the Inquisitor slamming his fist on the table.

The Polish priest walking towards the table of the two sitting men, “Why should we spare such a discussion of philosophy, isn’t Christmas, the festival of Incarnation, a philosophy of God’s love to the world? You claim that Thomas has sinned for giving presents in the image of Santa Claus, but hasn’t Thomas given presents in the name of love? And isn’t being just, by love, to a person the best representation of the image of God?”[14]

“The Man is a pagan sinner!” replied the Inquisitor.

At this point, the other man sitting at the table stood up and spoke, “Sin, you say? I may have learned a few things about Sin during my days in Thagaste, Africa before I was called to Christ’s priesthood.”

The Inquisitor laughed and snarled, “Oh the sinning priest from Africa wants to explain to us what sin is and who is a sinner, I suppose he would be the expert. Tell me African priest just how many pears did you steal from that man’s tree?[15]

“Enough to understand the truth of sin,” replied the African priest. “One must be open to the truth, given to us by God through his Grace. For God is true light, who enlightens men who open their hearts to his truth in this world and there is no change or shadow from this truth. Did I break God’s commandment? Did I commit theft? Yes. It is true that a thief, even a wealthy one, will not pardon one who steals from him. I took many pieces of fruit and for no reason, I did not need the fruit and I did not enjoy the taste. I did the evil without any need to do it, I was evil without any purpose. I desired a sinful nature because my flesh desired to be sinful by concupiscence and original sin.”[16][17]

At this moment, the Inquisitor stood up and walked slowly toward Thomas’ side. He bent over looking at Thomas’ face, which Thomas dared not to turn his head to look into the hood. The Inquisitor then said, “Perhaps, African priest, we may yet place you on trial as he roared laughing,” nearly face to face with Thomas. “This man celebrates a pagan idol named Santa Claus and passed the tradition to his child, which caused him to reject Christ. Santa Claus is no different from the traditions of the south-west native people in America.[18] A practice of dressing in costumes and masks of Gods and the dead.[19] You often speak of truth. Do you deny the truth in all of this African priest?”

“The Polish priest makes an observation that God is the philosophy of love. Too late have I loved him, but yet he still chose to touch me. I ask God to give what he commands and command what he wills.[20] By God’s command, he spreads in our soul works of mercy according to its kind. He tells us to love those in the world despite our necessities.”[21]

Did Thomas not love his son? Did Thomas lead his son astray from God’s gospel? It appears that Thomas did nothing more than love his son by God’s commands. Thomas’ son is guilty of his own sin, which is present on any infants face jealous of another child eating from his Mother’s breast.”[22] The example of the infant allows us to understand that all are deprived of some good, but evil and sin do not have a created substance.[23] Therefore, they do not come from God, for our God has made all things very good.[24] Thomas’ son’s sin is a manifestation of his own arrogance.

Thomas’ actions with celebrating the tradition of Santa Claus was built on the foundations of love for his son based on God’s eternal commands not the temporal world’s idolatry of materialism. Thomas, through the Grace of God,  has always taught his son the commands of the God, whether he chooses God’s Grace is determined by his own will.”[25]
The Inquisitor shook his head, “I presume African priest, you will make no recommendation for condemnation of Thomas’ soul?”

“I was never the judge of it, but no, I would not,” replied the African priest.

“What about you Polish priest? Notwithstanding your philosophy of love, haven’t you been critical of the modern world?” asked the Inquisitor.

“It is true, I  have been critical of secularization and secularism that promotes an insensitivity to the eternal and leads to a consumer mentality.[26] Do I believe this be the result of Thomas giving presents using the Santa Claus tradition? No. It’s certainly absurd to believe that the tradition of Santa Claus can be solely attributed to consumerism and the modern world and its evils of materialism. The modern world has constantly created power structures to oppress the will of humanity and eliminate Christianity. These are the intentions of such systems like Marxist collectivism to destroy the faithful. Thomas’ giving presents to his children employing the tradition of Santa Claus was not created with these intentions.

To understand why Christ sacrifice continues to save Thomas, we must understand what it means to me saved. To save means to liberate from radical evil and Thomas giving from his heart to his son that he loves certainly does not endanger his salvation if he does it based from the commands of God.”[27]

The Inquisitor screamed in a fury as the walls made from stone started to shake and suddenly it was over and the hooded stranger was gone.

Thomas looked up and saw only the African and Polish priests standing by him. Thomas asked, “Am I guilty?”

The African priest answered, “We all are, but we are redeemed by accepting the Grace of God through Christ’s sacrifice and following his commands. It was the reason he was born.”

Suddenly Thomas was awake in his bed. It was Christmas morning and Thomas had been woken up by his grandson. “It’s great to see you, Merry Christmas. Where are Karl and Margret?

“Mom and Dad are drinking coffee with Grandma, can we open the presents from Santa Grandpa?”
Thomas replied, “Sure we can, Nicholas, but first we must celebrate this day with Christ.”

[1] George Weigel, Letters to a Young Catholic, (New York: Basic Books, 2015,), 5.

 

[2] Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories (New York: Dover Publications, 1992,) 59. The Inquisitor was influenced from Mark Twain’s questioning stranger. In the publication was this stranger who described himself as an angel to children. As he continues to discuss the world with the children that it appears he is a fallen angel.

 

[3] Job 1:6-12 RSV Another influence of the Inquisitor, and the story itself, was built from the exchange between God and Satan in the book of Job.

[4] Claude Levi-Strauss, “Father Christmas Executed,” ed. Daniel Miller in Unwrapping Christmas (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 46.

 

[5] Mark 9:42 RSV 42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

 

[6] Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), 5.

[7] Luke 1:30 RSV

[8] Luke 5:10 RSV

[9] Josiah King, The Examination and Tryal of Old Father Christmas (United States: Proquest, 2011) 7.

[10] Levi-Strauss, 46.

[11] Pope John Paul !!, 197.

[12] James 2:14 RSV

[13] John 3:16 RSV

[14] Pope John Paul II, 201.

[15] Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, trans. John K. Ryan (New York: Image Books, 2014,) 28.

[16] Ibid, 69.

[17] Ibid, 28-29.

[18] Levi-Strauss, 44.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Augustine of Hippo, 220-21.

[21] Ibid, 315.

[22] Ibid, 8.

[23] Ibid, 134.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid, 136.

[26] John Paul II, 183.

[27] Ibid, 70.

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