A Season of Grace, a Season of Thieves
December 1998By James Schmitmeyer
Fr. James Schmitmeyer is a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and Pastor of St. Louis Church in North Star, Ohio, and St. Nicholas Church in Osgood, Ohio.
Early December. The first penance service of Advent. A young boy stands before me confessing his sins. He avoids my eyes and looks instead over my shoulder, to the statue of St. Nicholas looking down on us. The boy's name is Nicholas, too. In a few days, on his name saint's feast, he will awaken to find a bowl on the kitchen table, or one of his father's work socks hung on a door frame, filled with candy, nuts, and fruit.
St. Nicholas visits the children of Osgood and leaves them treats every December 6. He is not only the patron of children but also the patron of this parish. Here the saintly bishop is honored for his kindness to children and also for assisting grownups in paying their bills. In the Plattdeutsch (Low German) of my elderly parishioners, "Nicklaas bringt dat Geld in't Huus" (Nicholas brings money to the house).
The Advent Gospel readings may speak of a thief breaking into a home to steal, but our patronal feast remembers a bishop breaking open a shutter to throw in bags of gold to three young girls. An oddly appropriate beginning to Advent, a season of grace and a season of thieves.
I place one hand on young Nicholas's head and the other hand on his shoulder. I speak the solemn words of absolution: "Through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace ."
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