As Christmas approaches, remember to tell your students not only that Santa Claus is “real,” but that the saintly figure behind the legend is even more of an inspiration than the jolly perennial visitor of mythical renown! On December 6, the Catholic Church celebrates the Memorial of St. Nicholas of Myra (ca. AD 270 – 343), and on December 7, the Memorial of St. Ambrose (ca. 340 – 397). These two holy men actually have a fair amount in common:
- They were both bishops and profoundly intellectual leaders within the Church;
- They were both staunch opponents of the Arian heresy;
- They were both greatly devoted to selflessly serving the poor and oppressed;
- They both lived during the same epoch in Church history;
- They were both responsible for noteworthy conversions (with Nicholas inspiring others to turn away from the Arian heresy, and with Ambrose playing a key role in the conversion of St. Augustine of Hippo);
- They both led many hearts to the Good News of Jesus Christ through their teachings and example, practicing what they preached (cf. Matthew 23:3b).
The occasion of these two back-to-back memorials on the liturgical calendar is a crucial opportunity to learn more about the lives of these two saintly men, both for your own inspiration as a teacher and in order to lead your students to a greater awareness of these saints’ multiple contributions to the Church and to the kingdom of God by extension. Below are some resources to use in your classroom (and be sure to tell your students about how St. Nicholas [in]famously “took matters into his own hands” at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325)!
Saint Nicholas (December 6) Resources:
- Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Nicholas of Myra
- Catholic Online: St. Nicholas (opening with a brief introductory video)
- National Geographic: St. Nicholas to Santa - The Surprising Origins of Mr. Claus
- The St. Nicholas Center: Discovering the Truth About Santa Claus
St. Ambrose (December 7) Resources:
- Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Ambrose
- Catholic Online: St. Ambrose (opening with a brief introductory video)
- Franciscan Media: St. Ambrose
- St. Ambrose: Strangest Life Story Ever? (8 things to know and share) (from Jimmy Akin’s blog at the National Catholic Register, December 2013)
St. Nicholas of Myra, pray for us!
Saint Ambrose, pray for us!