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Dec 20 1902


The Montreal Herald, Saturday, December 20, 1902

The Divinity of Santa Claus

Why doesn't some good orthodox theologian start a crusade against the idolatrous worship of that jolly-faced, roly-poly old divinity Santa Claus? For surely the adoration of the little folks before they quit the golden age of childhood for the prosy period of skepticism cannot adequately be described in any other terms.

If any of us have doubts on the matter, let us recall the intensity and sincerity of our own infantile devotion. Is it not true that, especially after the first fall of snow brought with it a moral quickening, the imminence of Christmas Day had far more to do with our leaving undone the things which we ought not to do and our doing those things which we ought to do than the hazy idea of a distant judgment day? Did not old Santa, even more than the Deity Himself, appear to us to be the real rewarder of righteousness and avenger of iniquity? Did he not put toys and candies in the stockings of good boys and girls and switches in the stockings of bad ones? Personally I never knew a boy, or even knew a boy who knew a boy who found a switch in his stocking; but no right-thinking boy or girl would ever think of doubting the truth of this clause in the Christmas creed. If any senile skeptic still has doubts as to the divinity accorded to Santa Claus in child-land, let him recall his horror on that terrible day when for the first time he heard some older child utter the horrible heresy that there was no Santa Claus, and let him remember how he shrank away horrified from the blasphemer as if he expected to see the earth open and swallow him up. We remember how, impossible as such an atheistic theory seemed to us, the very statement of it rankled in our minds. And so we went to mother and said, in an awe-stricken whisper, "Mother, Harry says there is no Santa Claus. Isn't he wicked?" Mother, of course, agreed that he was, but, some way or other, through no fault of hers, further cross-questioning on the subject failed to reassure us. Then we went to father, and he, with the noble masculine disregard for verbal truth, completely restored our confidence in the powers that be. Of course there was a Santa Claus; why, he had even seen him, and forthwith related the circumstances and then, warming to his work, gave a vivid description of the jolly fay himself. The concluding and conclusive argument was, "Well, where do all the things in your stocking come from if there is no Santa Claus?"

Armed with this irrefutable argument, we return to the scoffer and launch it scornfully at him. On the previous occasion he had been satisfied with the startling effect of merely pronouncing the heresy. Besides, as our elder, he had some qualms of conscience about "spoilin the kids fun." Now, however, stung by the triumphant tone of the query, "Who fills our stockings then?" he retorts with brutal brevity, "Your father and mother of course!" Continuing he told us if we didn't believe it, just to look in the places where they hide things. And we, like little sneaks, looked in the bottom drawer of the bureau, behind the piles of sheets, and climbed up to the top shelf of the china closet. There, we found the drum and toy cannon and soldiers, just what mother and father, as joint prophets of the most high, had hinted that Santa Claus might bring us. But, O, the misery of the disillusionment, and how we hated Harry! Besides, we couldn't even go to mother for consolation, because we had sneaked into her hiding places. We discussed the subject in general with her, however, and finally, after continuous worrying, she capitulated, and told us the terrible truth that there was no Santa Claus. And then with that wonderful way that mothers have, she enlarged upon the delightful possibilities of playing Santa. The next year we tried it, and in the fascinating excitement of contriving "sprises" we forgot our ancient woe, and learned the great lesson of the Christmas king- that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Principal MacVicar

The death of Principal MacVicar means the loss of a stamp of man which neither Montreal nor Canada as a whole can afford to lose. For whether it be the result of the increasing tendency to "specialization" or of some other cause, the inclination of the men who are succeeding to the guidance of the great educational institutions of the Dominion does not appear to be toward the solution of, or even the grappling with, the great public questions of the day, but rather toward contentment with mere eminence in letters and science. The careers of such men as the late Principal Grant, of Kingston, Principal MacVicar and Professor Goldwin Smith serve as a powerful antidote to that type of so-called educationalists who look upon scholarship as an end in itself rather than as a fulcrum, by means of which they may raise their pupils and all who can be brought within the sphere of their influence to a higher level of usefulness and Christian citizenship.

With our system of party politics it is of the utmost importance that men who are independent politically, and who have the intellectual equipment and the eminence of position to enable them to command a hearing, should apply themselves to the study of the public questions of the day, in order that the public may look to them for independent criticism of political measures, and for the leadership in social and educational reform. Principal MacVicar realized his responsibility and privilege in this respect to the full, and the experience of a lifetime spent in the intelligent and serious observation of public affairs made his opinion a most valuable one. This was particularly true on account of the facility with which he could bring that experience to bear upon the matter under discussion. He possessed the rare faculty of "thinking on his feet," and the suggestion of any subject started a flood of memories, which made his chief difficulty the selection of the most relevant ones. While a man of strong and decided convictions, he was singularly capable of seeing all sides of a question. As Principal Hackett very aptly said of him, he was tolerant in the very truest sense of the term because his toleration was united with the very strongest dogmatic convictions of his own. He was able, in other words, to separate the man from his creed, and so while hating the one, to love the other; and in this way he could differ strongly, without cherishing the slightest animosity. He was a big enough man to sink minor differences when a greater issue was at stake. He could, for instance, be honestly enthusiastic in the cause of French evangelization, and yet join hands with entire sincerity and consistency with Archbishop Bruchesi in fighting against Sunday trading.

In the Presbyterian Church, the death of Principal MacVicar leaves a blank, which cannot be filled. He belonged to a little group of ecclesiastical statesmen of wide-reaching influence and inseparably linked to a certain period in this country's development. Two of them had already passed away within the year. They were Rev. James Robertson, the Apostle of the Northwest and Rev. Principal Grant, of Kingston. Rev. Principal MacVicar was the third. But one remains, Rev. Principal Caven of Toronto. With his death the species will be extinct. To these four men, pre-eminently the Presbyterian Church owes its proud position in Canada to-day, and to their influence and activity is due to no small extent and strength and solidity of the Dominion as a whole.


Questions And Answers

(The editor of this column invites readers of The Herald to contribute questions of a literary, scientific or miscellaneous nature, which will be answered as space may permit. The contributor's name and address should be given, but only initials or a nom de plum will be used for publication.)

Bolivar, Venezuela and the Monroe Doctrine

P.P.-What is the reason of the popularity of the name Bolivar, so frequently found on the map of South America?

Answer.-Simon Bolivar was the liberator of South America. He was a Venezuelan, being born at Caracas on July 24, 1783, of aristocratic parents. He received his elementary education in his native country, but also read for some years in Madrid. On leaving Spain he took a tour through France. He married in 1801, and on the death of his wife took another extended tour through Europe. Returning to Venezuela in 1808, he passed through the United States, where it is thought he conceived the idea of establishing the independence of his native land. In April 1910, having identified himself with a revolutionary movement, he was made a colonel in the patriotic army of Venezuela. During the same year he, together with Luis Lopez Mendez, went to England seeking for support. Venezuela declared for independence July 5, 1811. The campaign of 1811 was disastrous to the patriots, but Bolivar and his friends were successful in 1812-13. They defeated the Spaniards, and, capturing Caracas, obtained temporary control of Venezuela. In 1814 the Royalists discovered the country and Bolivar was obliged to take flight. Warfare continued from 1814 to 1819, in which latter year Bolivar, now being commander-in-chief of the patriots, terminated a most successful campaign, which practically secured the independence of Venezuela, Bogota and New Granada. The same year Venezuela and New Granada were united in one government, of which Bolivar became the president. The new state was called Columbia. On August 30, 1821, the new constitution of Columbia was adopted, the Spaniards having been vanquished for good. Bolivar now set himself to secure the independence of the northwestern part of South America. He led the revolutionists in Ecuador and Peru from 1822 to 1827, during part of which period he held the post of dictator. On December 9, 1826, Peru made Bolivar its president for life. From this time onward until his death on December 17, 1839, Bolivar held supreme command of all the northern part of South America. His authority was, however, frequently disputed and counter-revolutions disturbed the peace for some time. Bolivar spent all but one-tenth of an immense fortune in promoting the independence of South America, and when he died he was not in possession of the smallest portion of public funds. When money was granted him by the state he did not accept it. He was a true patriot and worthy of all honor. He purified legal administration, was a patron of the arts and sciences, and helped on all national interests. Venezuela is now at strife with Great Britain. The present generation of South Americans probably do not realize that but for the advocacy of that power the acceptance of the Monroe doctrine could not have been secured. The original intention of that doctrine was to secure the independence of the newly-established republics against the encroachment of European powers.

Secular and Religious

T.R.Y.-What is the exact scope of the terms "secular" and "religious," and what were their earliest significations?

Answer.-It may be stated generally that at present what is termed secular really indicates that which is distinctively worldly in character as opposed to what is concerned with the existence and work of a Supreme Being. Indeed those who are opposed to the belief of the existence of a personal Ruler of the universe for some time past have called themselves Secularists; while others call them agnostics, atheists, or infidels, the two latter terms often being used in a disparaging sense. During the Middle Ages what was secular was not necessarily non-religious in the sense which is now attached to the term religious. For instance the clergy who had their own separate residences situated on their glebes, and up to the latter days of the eleventh century, were allowed to marry, were called secular priests or secular canons in contrast to the monks, who were called "regulars." The latter being celibate and living in community. Those denominated the "religious" at this time were those who held holy orders of some kind, especially those who were vowed to celibacy, whether men or women. Virginity, and not chastity, constituted one of the principal monastic and therefore religious virtues. Hence it was at length enacted that all the clergy must be celibates; and they remained so until the continental and English reformation of the sixteenth century gave back to the clergy of the reformed bodies their ancient liberties. Asceticism and the various austerities of the old time religious life were undoubtedly borrowed from the ancient world religions of the East rather than from the customs of the ancient Jewish Church. At present religious societies are becoming more and more secular in their practices, and in the latitude allowed to their members. Fifty years ago the reading of any kind of fiction was as a rule deprecated by religious persons, and athletic sports were frowned upon by the earlier Young Men's Christian Associations, which now, however, have football, cricket, lacrosse and tennis clubs, together with all the other accessories of athletic sports, such recreations being quite in keeping with the earliest type of Christianity, though not in accord with the religion of the Middle Ages.

The word secular is derived from the Latin "saecularis," denoting (1) century or generation; (2) number or race; (3) fashion or time or age. The ancient Roman term century, as applied to time, indicated 100 or 110 years generally. Once in each saeculum or century were celebrated what were called "the saecular games," or sports. Perhaps the most generally received derivation of religion is from the Latin "re-lego":re again--and lego, I gather: together meaning to "go over again in thought," to practice retrospection.

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