by Ty Mam Duw, a Poor Clare Community in Hawarden, Wales
One does not often meet a member of the College of Bishops [and Common of Confessors] who looks seriously as if he might turn cartwheels—but it has been the experience of several who have seen Our Lady and other visions from Above, that the inhabitants of heaven look infinitely more alive than we do.
Saint Nicholas card from St. Nicholas Parish, North Walsham, England St. Nicholas Center Collection
The Metropolitan of Myra, swept in, a splendid tatterdemalion of ecclesiastical outfitting. Over an Eastern Rite tunica, the Metropolitan wore a Gothic cope with, swatched round his neck like an undergraduate scarf, the old style Pallium, over this again was a scarlet mozzetta edged with swansdown. With a magnificent gesture he removed his twelfth century Abbot's mitre, to which someone had thoughtfully appended a crystal icicle, and after bowing, cast it, and his crook, unerringly into the hands of the Sacristan, Sr. Marion. After a few centuries in the red, one can presumably recognise a Sacristan on sight. We applauded. His Grace held up his hand. He is the first person we have interviewed who even beat us to the first question.
St. Nick: No. I didn't. Or don't. The thing I remember best about earth was the Council of Nicea.
TMD*: (amazed) Were you and it contemporaries?
St. Nick: In my opinion, which I trust now no one will be so presumptuous as to contest, I was. I remember it as if it were yesterday, even after all these centuries. Not, you understand with any shame, though as it happens I disgraced myself.
TMD: What did you do?!
St. Nick: I didn't care for Arius with his low, loose comments on the Mother of God. I hit him on the head. With the first thing to hand, which of course happened to be my crozier. They didn't like it—the Council Fathers—the Church has never thought that a blunt weapon constitutes a good argument. They jailed me. The Press Office did a superb public relations job on our Episcopal Unity and omitted all mention of my maladventures—but they lived on in legend—the best things do, like St. George and the Dragon.
TMD: What happened to you in prison?
St. Nick: Oh. After my salutary stint on bread and water, our Lady came and let me out, thanked me for my efforts and suggested I channel my undoubted enthusiasm into more productive courses. This was after I had provided dowries for the three young ladies whose father was going to raffle them at an All Night Saturnalia, and brought in the Three Ships [whom you affectionately commemorate in the carol] full of grain for the starving, and resurrected three children who had been murdered without the last rites and pickled, but before I rescued a lot of mariners in a storm—only One Ship, that time. In between I got martyred. It might have been Diocletian—but you know how it is, if you are going to be martyred you don't go around amassing data on the axeman.
TMD: In between you presumably ruled your diocese?
St. Nick: Certainly not, sister. From time to time, when not praying and performing needful miracles I served my diocese. Now I'd like to ask you some questions.
TMD: Submit them in writing and come back in a fortnight.
St. Nick: Certainly not! This is my busiest season. After the Holy Father I am the Church's most extensive outreach man. My missionary possibilities are almost unlimited. Mine is the most graphically reproduced countenance in creation. I am venerated from the tropics to the Polar Caps. I am ecumenical, non-denominational and interfaith. I've brought you all a chocolate St. Nick and a bar of soap and I'm not coming twice in one year. . . . There, you've distracted me, what was I going to say?
TMD: Something about service?
St. Nick: Ah, yes, and then, no, possibly. People, while they are children, frequently pray to me—as I have said I am the Bottom Line—they do it instinctively, they don't have to go to a Catholic school to learn. Even you prayed to me (waving courteously at Sr. Electra).
Sr. Electra (blushing): Er, Yes. I wanted a red skirt and crossover top with white mohair edging.
St. Nick: Did you get it?
Sr. Electra: Er. N . . .
St. Nick: Well, look what your wearing now, didn't I do better for you? (there's certainly more of it.)
Sr. Electra: Er . . .
St. Nick: Don't mumble sister, you're not handicapped by this mothy theatrical beard. As I was saying, what was I saying . . . ? Catholic Schools! [He seized his crozier from the Sacristan—only three members of the community went to Catholic Schools, and most of those were expelled, but they all ducked guiltily.] Woe to those, (not you dear), woe to those who had the Faith given to them on a plate and would not eat, woe to those who received the Gospel, unearned, from the angels—and cast their crowns into the mud. Woe to those who were loved and cherished AND TAUGHT THE TRUTH AT THE KNEES OF MOTHERS AND NUNS and have cast their pearl before the circus of success. Woe to those who have filled their bellies with husks and have said no word to the million uninstructed prodigals at their side in the swine pen. I tell you they have had their reward.
[The saint raised his crozier above his head—there was a flash of lightening and we all covered our eyes, then an unmistakable voice with a Swiss French accent spoke softly]
St. Francis de Sales: Nick, mon cher, you can attract more flies with a teaspoon of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.
St. Nick: Thank you, François. Well, sisters, you can see why I'm only in charge of Children, Moneylenders, Mariners, Myra and such like rough folk—and why I spend my eternity distributing presents. Happy Christmas. If you've got the Faith, let the Faith get you, and pass it on—that's the best Christmas present.
Till we meet again.
* TMD is the abbrevaition for Ty Mam Duw, a Community of Contemplative and Cloistered Poor Clare Nuns (Our Mother's House in Welsh) in Wales, England.
By Ty Mam Duw, a Poor Clare Community in Hawarden, Wales, 1998. Used by permission.