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Her name was Sadie—part this and part that, but mostly she was heart that she shared with her owner and my friend for sixteen years—until this morning.

Soulful brown eyes, floppy ears, smooth-haired brown and black coat, she was a companion to relatives, neighbors, kids, visitors, and other dogs. Her tendency to share her spirit so liberally was tendered by her owner, selfless and kind.

Whatever experiences Sadie had with a previous owner are unknown, but whatever their quality, she quickly bonded with her new one. Early years of romping outdoors, of sharing life’s joy and hits only deepened their relationship all the more. Daily walks among well-wishers, routine appointments kept at the vet and the groomer, care with nutrition and hydration kept Sadie fit and spirited and welcoming.

Then, signs of aging required more attention. Systems and joints slowed down, even requiring a ramp hitched to the back porch for access to their bungalow. Sensory deficit and signs of dementia appeared, necessitating nightly vigils that kept both awake. But last night’s was the worst. The decision was made.

It happened this bitterly cold morning. Close neighbors wrapped Sadie in blankets, held the tearful homebound owner, and left for the veterinarian.

Their later return completed the story, midst more tears and hugs and camaraderie.

Sadie’s spirit has completed her sojourn here, and continues on, per the research of world renowned medium spiritual James Van Praagh. His latest, Wisdom from Your Spirit Guides: A Handbook to Contact Your Greatest Teachers (2019) opens up this world to readers.

Sadie’s owner was critical to her psychic growth and I believe they will be reunited—here and in the beyond.

Many know the story of Santa Claus, but few know his precedent: St. Nicholas (289–343), born of wealthy parents in Turkey who died in an epidemic. His uncle, bishop of Patara took him in, raised him, and under his influence, Nichols was later ordained a priest. A pious man, he secretly gave away his inheritance to the poor.  

Thereafter, Nicholas continued selling gifts offered him and helping the poor, sick, and suffering. Stories of his generosity abounded

Three nights in a row, Nicholas had tossed bags of gold into a poor farmer’s hovel that landed in shoes next to the fireplace where they were drying. Nicholas knew that the farmer would have to sell his three daughters into servitude or prostitution, there being no dowry.

Even after Nicholas was named Bishop of Myra, with the challenging responsibilities of his office, he continued his secret alms-giving. So graced he was that he also became a miracle worker. He restored the lives of small children their father had soaked in brine until suitable to sell to the starving during the plague.

Nicholas also knew imprisonment under the Emperor Diocletian until released by Constantine in 325, after which he attended the Council of Nicaea and dealt with the Arian heresy.

Legends continued growing in Europe around this self-less man. Many imitated his practice of secret giving, honoring him on the day of his death, December 6, 343; he was only confirmed in sainthood in 1446 by Pope Eugene IV.

With the Protestant Reformation’s outlawing the veneration of the saints, Nicholas’s memory was only retained in the Netherlands where he was called Sinterklaas. Too important to leave behind, seventeen-century Dutch emigrants introduced Sinterklaas to New Amsterdam.

From Sinterklaas, Santa Claus slowly emerged, thanks to Clement Clark Moore’s 1820 poem, “An Account of a Visit from Santa Claus,” otherwise known as “The Night Before Christmas.” Then in 1881, Cartoonist Thomas Nash dressed Santa in a fur-trimmed red suit.

Today, many families still honor St. Nicholas’s practice of filling empty shoes near fireplaces or outside bedroom doors with goodies on his Feast Day.

“Will you be my friend?” asked Raphael Simi who was confined to the psychiatric hospital at Saint-Jean-les-Deux-Jumeaux in Trosly, a southern suburb of Paris. Next to him stood Philippe Seux, both intellectually disabled and living in deplorable conditions. It was 1964.

A tall strapping professor of ethics listened. Already moved by visits to other institutions warehousing “idiots” and the unseemly, the question changed the direction of his life. Mindful of Jesus’s practical care for the poor, he bought a small house at the edge of a nearby forest and with his new friends set up housekeeping—a messy undertaking but one persevered in.

Daily, often humdrum, interacting dissolved barriers of fear and the customary manner of doing things, opened new inroads into the comic that they shared, and actualized the bedrock of their graced humanness: joy, love, tears, and freedom. From this experience evolved L’Arche (French word for The Ark—like Noah’s), and a quiet revolution was born.

After five decades, such radical care for the unlovely still inflames the psyche of its founder, Jean Vanier, now eight-eight years old. Others of like mind have entered into this movement and following prayerful discernment, developed other group homes in France and around the world. Today, L’Arche has over five thousand members who live in one hundred and fifty-one communities that are spread over five continents. Three of these communities are in St. Louis, Missouri.

This moving story has been captured in Randall Wright’s documentary, Summer in the Forest (2018) and can be seen at the Tivoli Theater in St. Louis, Missouri—another must see.

 

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