Wednesday, December 06, 2006

St. Nicholas Day Massacre

Today I observe two commemorations. It’s St. Nicholas Day and in our household we observe it in an entirely un-religious way. At some time during the night, St. Nicholas showed up in our house, took 6 dinner plates from our Christmas dishes, and loaded them with chocolates placing one under each of our beds.

Sundays & Seasons says this about Nicholas
Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (d. c. 342)
Though Nicholas is one of the church’s most beloved saints, little is known about his life. In the fourth century he was a bishop in what is now Turkey. Legends that surround Nicholas tell of his love for God and neighbour, especially the poor. One famous story tells of Nicholas secretly giving bags of gold to the three daughters of a father who was going to sell them into prostitution because he could not provide dowries for them. Nicholas has become a symbol of anonymous gift giving.

It sounds like a sweet story about a generous bishop but I cringe when I read that, to hear that a father might "sell his daughters into prostitution." We might consign something like that to a distant place and time, but it’s not so distant. "Human trafficking is the third largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world, victimizing millions of people and reaping billions in profits" (from "The average age of entry into prostitution in the United States is between 13 and 14 years of age, with children being sold and trafficked at even younger ages in impoverished areas throughout the world (from The Standing Against Global Exploitation Project). "There are an estimated 10,000 children living on the streets of Toronto, with a large percentage involved in the sex trade. Approximately 600 children are involved in the sex trade in Montreal, and 400 in Calgary" (from Child Prostitution, the Commercial Exploitation of Children).

St. Nicholas was a saviour for those three women. Another commemoration I observe each December 6, if only in my own thoughts and memories, is the victims of the Montreal Massacre which occurred on this date in 1989. I have two daughters and two sons and I hope I’m raising them to value the lives of other human beings. I don’t want them to experience or feel the hatred that caused a man to walk into the École Polytechnique de Montréal and shoot 14 women. The women who died were:
Geneviève Bergeron (b. 1968), civil engineering student.
Hélène Colgan (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Nathalie Croteau (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Barbara Daigneault (b. 1967) mechanical engineering student.
Anne-Marie Edward (b. 1968), chemical engineering student.
Maud Haviernick (b. 1960), materials engineering student.
Maryse Laganière (b. 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department.
Maryse Leclair (b. 1966), materials engineering student.
Anne-Marie Lemay (b. 1967), mechanical engineering student.
Sonia Pelletier (b. 1961), mechanical engineering student.
Michèle Richard (b. 1968), materials engineering student.
Annie St-Arneault (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Annie Turcotte (b. 1969), materials engineering student.
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (b. 1958), nursing student.

Gracious Lord, in every age you have sent men and women who have given their lives for the message of your love. Inspire us with the memory of those martyrs for the Gospel whose faithfulness led them in the way of the cross, and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives to your Son’s victory over sin and death; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


LutherPunk said...

Seems a perfectly religious observation to me. After all, you remembered a saint and gave small gifts to those you love.

I had not heard the story of the massacare, what a terrible thing.

Kevin said...

I remember before seminary, when I was at WLU, some seminarians (now Eastern Synod pastors) were pissed that the Montreal Massacre remembrance services trumped the feast of St. Nicholas. That absolutley floored me. We can play Christian games all we want but until we engage the very real suffering of people, especially an oppressed group, then we are not Christians, we only think we are.