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            A rather difficult youth

          My daughter Jilana, at the turn of the millenium, was a graduate student at Loyola University of Chicago.  A girl of Jewish upbringing, who as an adolescent was Wiccan by preference, she seemed out of place to some in a good Jesuit university.  From her point of view, her interest in Wicca had grown into an interest in medieval history--not in the wars or borders but in how people lived and what people thought. And one major class of source material for that was old church records, such as the letters priests wrote back to their bishops. Hence Jilana needed to learn medieval Latin and the organization of church records. Hence Loyola.
           But her researches into old church documents have turned up some interesting sidelights.  Going well back before the medieval period, she has drawn our attention to the minutes of the early Council of Nicaea, where the first draft of the Nicene Creed was being debated.  Debate over several points was rather heated, especially the extent and nature of the humanity of Jesus.  Among the attendees at the Council was a young man named Nicholas of Myra, who became so worked up that at one point he lost his temper and slugged a gentleman by the name of Arius, a very influential church leader of the time.
           This did not endear Nicholas to the Roman authorities. Emperor Constantine, for example, got along well with Arius.  For this and some other misbehaviours Nicholas spent some time in prison.  But later, when the church found Arius's views to be mistaken, denouncing them as the Arian heresy, Nicholas was able to resume his ecclesiastical career.
         In fact, as I understand it, he finally grew up to be St. Nicholas, who after passing through some of the changes that storytelling allows, emerges in the modern United States as Santa Claus.
          But Jilana has put her finger on the most important moral to be drawn from the story. She says parents should take heart from the evidence that in his youth, even Santa Claus was not always well behaved.

Edward Ordman 2000.

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