Friday, 7 December 2007


Since the time of Don Bosco, there has been a tradition in our Salesian houses to stage an accademia (usually a cultural presentation meant to instruct the boys on the upcoming feast). It was held on the eve of the feast. And it was so in my experience of Salesian life, even when I was a young aspirant in high school. When I was a brother in practical training, I staged accademias at the eve of almost every solemnity.

Tonight, on the eve of the Solemnity Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception, I am quite emotional. I have just come from a play staged by our Seminarians, a play entitled Ineffabilis Deus. As I watched, memories of my years as a brother came back.

And why would it not be so when this was one which I wrote and directed for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December of 1995? It was a play done by the batch of many of those who were ordained in 2005; they did it when they were postulants.

As I said, the play was entitled Ineffabilis Deus (the title of the papal document on the dogma of the Immaculate Conception). The whole musical was actually a discussion of the doctrine. It focused on the ideas that surrounded the debate between theologians throughout the ages on the Immaculate Conception. It culminated in presenting the view of the ideas of the Franciscan philosopher and theologian John Duns Scotus. The play echoed the words: Potuit, decuit; ergo fecit! (“He could; it was fitting; therefore, He did it!”) Yes, God could make Mary immaculately conceived; it was fitting that the one who would be Mother of God be immaculately conceived; and therefore He did it!

We can have a lot of reflections on this celebration but I would just like to focus on the point that the privilege granted by God to Mary was a gratuitous gift. But Mary did not just sit on this privilege. Before God’s eyes she sought to be worthy of this gift. We may not be blessed to have that privilege of being immaculately conceived, but we are graced with so many blessings from God. We have a lot to thank him for. May this thought lead us to be more conscientious in what God has called us to be. He has given us so much and so we must not be complacent; otherwise, we will be wasting a lot of the good that the Lord has bestowed on each of us. The beauty in the privilege given to Mary was that it had fruits as lived in a life that experienced Jesus and then “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Lk 2:19)

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Saint Nicholas

When I was with the Comunità Don Bosco in our Salesian University in Rome, we had a confrere from Colombia, a very good friend of mine. His birthday fell on this day, December 6. On that particular day, as was customary for the community, those celebrating their birthday, anniversary or name day (onomastico) give a little treat to the confreres at lunch or dinner--like beer, ice cream, pastries, spumante, or liqueur. This particular confrere gave away chocolates in the form of Santa Claus as he explained that in his country, December 6, the feast of St. Nicholas, is a popular feast and people on this day anticipate Christmas by giving gifts to one another.

Santa Claus is no stranger to us for he looms as a very visible figure every Yuletide season. When I was a little child, he was always part of the Christmas celebration for I was at that time convinced that the gifts that I found under the Christmas tree or beside my pillow on Christmas Day were really from him.

Presently, however, I feel uncomfortable with the stature that the consumeristic world has given him, for his presence seems to rival the real reason for celebrating Christmas. More than the sincere giving of gifts, Santa Claus has become the icon of how commercial Christmas has become. It is a case of missing the point: that the first Christmas was a paragon of simplicity, as was the saint who came to be known as Santa Claus.

It would be of help for us to know more about the reason how Santa Claus came into the picture at Christmas time. Santa Claus is known as giving gifts to boys and girls during Christmas making him the friend of little children in this season. Two things then: giving, and children.

Saint Nicholas is known as generous to the poor and special protector of the innocent and wronged. His holiness of his life thus revolved on giving, and children. And the Christmas season is indeed about giving, and children: God gave his only Son to be one among us; and this Son, the Word Made Flesh, came as a child. This is the whole point of Christmas.

This early, as we have just come to the onset of Advent, I have already talked about Christmas. Well, with the memorial of this saint of today, we anticipate things even liturgically. It is a preparation for the celebration of the mystery of Christ’s coming. These days, in my present assignment as high school principal, we are immersed in days of preparation: for the coming examinations, for contests, for make-up lessons. But we also need to prepare spiritually: for the coming feast of our Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Conception, and of course, Christmas. This is what matters. I salute teachers and those who work with young people: for their vocation is connected to the ideals of St. Nicholas’ life, the ideals of Christmas: giving, and children.

Picture: St. Nicholas was said to have raised to life three young boys who had been murdered and pickled in a barrel of brine to hide the crime. These stories led to his patronage of children in general.