he Irish Times today reports as follows:
Children at a north Kerry school who became upset after a visiting priest implied there was no Santa Claus have been reassured by parents and staff that the priest was mistaken, and Santa does indeed exist.
The priest who made the blunder while visiting the Scoil Mhuire gan Smal in Lixnaw last week believed he was speaking to mainly sixth class pupils.
Fr Martin Hegarty, a retired priest who was filling in for the parish priest, was visiting the school to explain the message of Christmas.
During an exchange with children in the 4th, 5th and 6th classes, Fr Hegarty implied Santa Claus did not exist. A number of children got upset and at least one 11-year-old child began crying.
A meeting of the board of management was called to discuss the matter.
Fr Hegarty, who is understood to be deeply embarrassed, told the Kerry’s Eye newspaper on Wednesday he did not realise the children were upset .
He also remarked to the newspaper that Irish children got more presents than other nationalities at Christmas time. “So they needn’t worry, the presents will come, whether Santy comes or not,” the priest said.
In a statement last night through the diocese of Kerry Fr Hegarty said the following:
“I regret any upset that I have caused to children and parents of Scoil Mhuire gan Smál. My intention was to talk about the birth of Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas. I must admit that Santa Claus is not my area of expertise.”
Some parents told their children “the priest was making it all up,” according to one parent who did not wish to be named.
So, Santa Claus is not his area of expertise and it was a genuine mistake? BUT, Fr Hegarty, not only does Santa exist, he epitomizes the very message of Christmas that you were trying to convey!
The most reprinted newspaper editorial of all time was on this very topic : Published in the The New York Sun in 1897, it was the response to the question Does Santa Exist? and was the work of Francis Pharcellus Church.
An 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, whose family read and set great store by the New York Sun newspaper, wrote to ask this question in September 1897. She wrote:
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Francis Church a journalist, was asked to reply and his response has appeared in many publications, in films, on stamps, on posters in about a dozen languages for over a century.
His response was :
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
The editorial was something of a sensation and the New York Sun reprinted it every year for over 50 years until the newspaper closed down in 1949.
Fr Martin Hegarty will I am sure get inspiration from the story of Virginia and the wonderful response from Francis, a very devout Christian who gave Virginia hope, protection, reassurance and magic!
May the magic of Christmas never cease to captivate children of all ages everywhere for centuries to come!