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Editorial

 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinDecember 15, 2006 Issue 

Can't buy Santa

Despite what you see on the Internet, Santa isn't for sale, but you can have a piece of him


By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor

Want to buy a piece of Santa Claus?

Just when it seemed the holiday couldn't get more commercial, eBay - the on-line auction - listed a relic of St. Nicholas ("traditional Santa Claus") early this month.

A d v e n t
 • Other Advent articles

EBay has come under fire from various groups for allowing sellers to post what they claim are relics of saints. These include medals, cloth encased in plastic and reliquaries allegedly containing hair from various saints. And, clearly, people are buying them.

Some are certainly scams, like supposed pieces of the cross of Christ. Others resemble sacred memorabilia readily available for free at pilgrimage sites worldwide. And technically, anything you or I might touch to a holy site - like the rosary I placed on the Lord's tomb in Jerusalem - becomes a third class relic. (Second class relics are items used by a saint, such as a rosary. First class relics are actual body parts, or relics of the Lord.)

The item on eBay is a statue of St. Nicholas reportedly touched to his relics, which reside in Bari, Italy.

Many are offended by these sales (and selling relics is forbidden by church law). God's grace, present in his saints, is offered freely to all. And many groups are petitioning eBay to stop the sale of supposed relics. Others buy these items to offer them back to the church.

But even if eBay closes its relics operation - which it seems disinclined to do, according to a Nov. 7 Catholic News Service report - the point here isn't the sale of relics. The point, at least during this holiday time, is about owning "a sacred relic of Santa Claus" as the eBay ad touts.

There's nothing wrong with devotions to saints, or honoring their relics. However, if someone wants to truly have a piece of Santa Claus - one that isn't open to questions about authenticity or origin - we might hope they would choose to spend their money as the real Santa did.

St. Nicholas was a fourth century bishop of Myra (now part of Turkey) known for his concern for the poor. He was especially devoted to children. One legend about him deals with three daughters of a poor merchant, who could not provide for their marriages. Three times, bags of gold - enough for a generous dowry for each - appeared overnight at their home. Nicholas, the model for the legendary gift-giver in the red suit, was believed to be the secret benefactor.

If we give of ourselves - and our money - as St. Nicholas did, helping those who cannot help themselves, then we all can truly "own a piece of Santa." His spirit - the Spirit of God who guides all saints - will live in our hearts.

And no one will be able to take that away and sell it, anywhere!


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