Since 1984 the students and staff at Father Mercredi High School have been sharing the Christmas spirit through the social justice project of Santas Anonymous. This year we are sharing our faith through this social justice program again.
Friday and Saturday please join us at the Miracle Marathon at our local Save on Foods locations with Country 93.3 and 979Rock broadcasting live. If you are not able to make it, you can always donate online through ATBCares. Please search for Fort McMurray Catholic in the search and then specify that your donation is for Santas Anonymous in the comment section.
This article appeared in the Fort McMurray Today November 1, 2018.
Building Love with Santas Anonymous
By Anthony Hoffman
Santas Anonymous has been such a big part of our community and played an even bigger role for the students at Father Mercredi Community High School for as long as I can remember. When I was in elementary at Father Beauregard, team leaders from Santas would come to my school to show us what they had been up to. I remember watching, in eager anticipation for my own high school years, videos of gymnasiums packed with hampers, garland-clad students dancing around and an honest Christmas joy pouring through every image.
My high school years with Santas Anonymous were everything I imagined them to be. It’s only now however, as an adult and Catholic School Trustee that I realize something far bigger, far more important has been going on this whole time through Santas Anonymous.
I’m not even talking about the momentary charity that happens every year, as essential and beautiful as that is. But something on a more tectonic level in the minds and hearts of students involved in the charity.
Many schools really excel at teaching knowledge; at bringing to life the sciences, the arts, biology, and every other discipline available to the human mind. What has always been a little trickier to accomplish is to instill a sense of spiritual rightness. An alignment of one’s character towards the good. More than mere ethics, it’s an understanding of human mission, a buying in–shifting one’s paradigm towards right action, zeal in labor and developing a true capacity for honest love.
These are character traits that can only really be developed, ironed out and understood in the classroom of service.
Despite its flaws, the Catholic Church has never been ambiguous in its mission to propose an aligning of life towards service. Building some of the first schools, hospitals and universities, the Church has a track record of trying to serve the needs of whomever may show up at their door. Celebrating the growth of the human mind and soul through service.
It is a core belief in the Catechism that one of the purposes of life is to truly learn how to love. That love is not a feeling primarily, but as Aquinas says, it is to ‘desire the good of the other, as other.’ To literally want what is the very best for someone else. Not to love in order to receive something in return, but to love, even if it comes at a cost to ourselves. This takes a lifetime to perfect. When we serve, especially when it is hard, and when we receive absolutely nothing in return for our labors, we are learning the cost of authentic love. And it’s beautiful.
I remember volunteering in Calcutta with the Missionaries of Charity almost a decade ago. While there I saw Mother Teresa’s tiny, simple bedroom. On the wall was written in small hand painted letters: “You did it to me.” A reminder for the saint of what Matthew 25:4 says. Service to others brings us to perfection. It introduces us to a higher pitch of reality, and sets our lives on a path of soul-reverberating transformation. Almost paradoxically as well, it fills our hearts and minds with an indelible joy. Bishop Barron says that “We have an infinite hunger for God and therefore nothing finite can ever fill it up, and in fact, the more you try, the more frustrated and addicted you become…. You want to be happy? Empty your life out. Give it away.”
For Catholics, the goal of charity isn’t to ‘be good people.’ Nor is it out of some vain attempt to earn heaven. To balance our moral checkbook. We don’t do it for the warm and fuzzy feeling, even though that is often a byproduct. We do it because we believe that the world which is inherently good, has been scarred by our own vices and those of imperfect human systems. By eliminating these and cleaning up the byproducts we are performing spiritual surgery and rebuilding the world the way God intended. This can’t be done by wishing it, or by dryly teaching about values, hoping students will just ‘decide’ to be virtuous. It happens in the trenches of self-examination and by rolling up our sleeves to help re-order the world. This means serving. It means filling hampers every Christmas.
The goal of Santas Anonymous every year is to help people in our community have a wonderful Christmas. The deeper goal however is to plant the seeds of complete transformation in the students who participate in the work of Santas. Scripture so often hints that God is hidden within the poor. And as Benedict XVI said “Christianity is not a philosophy or set of rules, it is an encounter.” It is a meeting, a melding together of an individual who encounters perfect love, perfect justice and perfect goodness. In turn, we willingly allow that meeting to melt away our vices, our fears and our brokenness. If that meeting is found in serving the poor, then that is where any Catholic Educator must be serious about leading its students.
Thank you Santas Anonymous. Thank you for every hamper you’ve ever packed, and for every soul you’ve ever touched.