St. Nicholas — not Santa — spreads message of caring, sharing at Harrison school
St. Nicholas dropped in at Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Harrison on Thursday — St. Nicholas Day — to remind students of what is really important during the holidays.
Making his first appearance at the Catholic school, St. Nicholas was bedecked in a crimson robe underlain with an antique sheer white, gold-embroidered vestment. His curly white beard spilled well over his chin. He spoke in a halting European accent, mesmerizing the 168 students, pre-K through eighth grade.
“I speak Turkish, what language do you speak?” asked the legendary saint as he sat in a red, stuffed chair on the altar of the Most Blessed Sacrament church.
First off, he made it clear he is not Santa Claus.
Although, St. Nicholas confirmed that he knows Santa and revealed that Claus does help him out sometimes.
St. Nicholas said he was from Myra, Turkey, but he now lives in heaven and was on earth Thursday just to visit the children in Harrison.
“Anybody know what my job was on earth was? I be a priest and a bishop. You’ve got priests here.”
He told the children how he was put in jail more than once for preaching, and how his mission was to take care of poor people.
“When we take care of people, we share,” he said.
“How many like to share?”
Most hands went up.
“How many don’t like to share?”
Just a few hands went up and then upon further reflection, quickly went down.
In preparation for St. Nicholas’ visit, students earlier in the week colored in paper shoes to set out Wednesday night, according to Audrey Bowser, principal at Most Blessed Sacrament.
A wealthy man, St. Nicholas used to leave candy and other small treats in the shoes of poor children.
Thursday morning, when the students arrived at school, they were greeted with treats of clementines and Hershey kisses, much like the tradition of St. Nicholas.
That is the message, according to Bowser.
“It’s not about getting the best toy – the $600 iPad,” she said. “It’s about getting a small treat and giving to others.”
For St. Nicholas, the day was about having fun with the students as well.
In his broken English, he asked the students where he was.
“Nature Heights?” The children in unison yelled, “No.”
“A-trona Heights?” Still, “No.”
Then finally, “Na-trona Heights,” followed by a resounding “yes.”
All took photos with thehistorical icon.
When St. Nicholas got up out of his chair to leave, he told the children he would have a tough time getting up — being 1,000-plus years old.
The children rushed the altar, gathered around the saint and collectively helped him to his feet, showing St. Nicholas the spirit of caring and giving.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary Ann at 724-226-4691, email@example.com or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.