My two older children (7 &8) are reaching the age where they starting to question Santa Claus. The questions have already begun that show the underlying story is beginning to crack under the weight of age and experience. I realize that some Christians don’t do the Santa myth for various reasons. I respect their faith and reason, but I don’t happen to agree and I don’t wish to argue it here. I like this time with Santa. They grow out of it quickly enough. I grew up with Santa and it didn’t hurt my faith.

I am trying to cherish this year. I suspect that for my oldest children this is the last year in which they can really enjoy the anticipation and mystery of Santa’s visit. As mentioned, they are starting to ask questions but they only probe so far, possibly afraid of what they might find. They, like me, are reticent to give up the fantasy. They like it enough to suppress their suspicious little natures, for a while.

So like I said, I have been trying to cherish what might be the last year with Santa. I have been careful to avoid any shows that might question his existence. With less than two weeks to go I thought I had it made. Then in stepped Fr. Look At ME.

I have written about Fr. Look At ME (LAME) a few times before, usually in frustration. Fr. LAME is an occasional visiting priest to my parish. His antics are a continuing source of frustration for me as all his actions (including ad libbing Eucharistic prayers, interrupting the liturgy to tell a story, walking all over the church during his ridiculously long and pointless homilies, and making a John & Yoko lovefest our of the Sign of Peace) scream Look At Me rather than look to Jesus.

So today when we got to mass today and I saw that Fr. LAME was visiting I exchanged glances with my wife. We have run into Fr. LAME enough times that I can usually block him out sufficiently to focus on the mass. After the homily today, I was so peeved that I was seeing red. For the first time, the family and I left right after the dismissal so as to avoid him in the narthex after mass. I was so angry that I feared saying something I would regret. I actually came up with a few good regrettable comments earlier, that is why I thought it better to leave early.

Fr. LAME starts off his homily by saying “There is a rumor going around that there is no Santa Claus. That he is made up and everybody knows it!” My kids immediately looked at with questioning and troubled eyes. I did my best to reassure them through my gestures, but it seemed to have little effect.

Father continued by telling the story of a boy who was questioning Santa Claus. All his friends had stopped believing so the troubled boy went to his Gramma to find out the truth. Gramma always tells the truth you see. Like when she says her cookies are world famous, they must be because Gramma says so. My kids know when I say my cookies are world famous that I am just making it up because kids are smart.

Gramma tells the little boy that there is a Santa. Santa is when we show love and charity to our neighbor. She illustrates it by having the little boy buy a coat for a needy boy in his class. See Bobby, there is a Santa Claus. Santa Claus is every time we love a neighbor. Bah Humbug.

Sorry Gramma, Sorry Fr. LAME, Santa is a fat bearded guy that comes down my chimney on Christmas Eve to deliver presents to good boys and girls. That is what I have been telling my kids. What gives you the right to ruin it?

This particular mass was the teen mass so there were plenty of young families and children around. I looked around while this assault on the dreams of children was unfolding and I saw other worried parents exchanging worried looks. The children were all riveted, since Fr. had mentioned Santa.

My seven year old son seemed unaffected by the homily and was asking Mom where he left his Nintendo DS at the end. But my eight year old daughter, who listed to every word of that homily, seemed deep in thought at the end. She didn’t look at me or bother to ask about it after which worries me even more.

I am furious. I have had it with this priest. Isn’t it bad enough that he messes with the liturgy, now he has to mess with Santa? What gave him the right to say such a thing to a church full of children? I feel doubly angry because I feel as helpless as I am outraged. I have called and left messages for my Pastor twice before after Fr. LAME has meddled with Eucharistic prayers. My Pastor has never bothered to even return my calls. So there is little to no chance that he will give a wit about Santa.

I just wanted one more year for her. One more year with the gleeful suspension of disbelief. One more year of mystery and joy. You can never get that time back. They can never get that time back. I just wanted one more year of the joy of Santa for my little girl. I never expected to have the mystery and joy of Santa stolen from us at mass.

The one story about Jolly ol’ St. Nick that keeps repeating in my mind is that time when he punched the heretic Arias at the Council of Nicea. Boy I wish St. Nick was around today. He would have known what to do.