December 2022: "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus"

Michael A. Marinelli, Ed.D. ‘76
Dear Friends,

This past September, my wife and I had our first grandchild - a girl named Virginia Jane born to our son and daughter-in-law. I had forgotten what it was like to hold a newborn child since our children, nieces and nephews were born many years ago. It is an indescribable feeling to hold an infant, let alone your granddaughter!

When I considered what to share with all of you this Christmas, I thought of the immense feeling of love we have for our newest family addition, and how the birth of Jesus - the Incarnation - is the supreme act of love that God has for us. Moreover, our Savior was born into this world as a defenseless newborn child who needed the love and protection of Mary and Joseph. God trusted humankind with his own Son.

Adding to my thoughts about the Season, one of the selections presented at the “Coming Home for Christmas” Concert in the Patio on Sunday, December 18, was “Believe” from the movie, “The Polar Express.” I was touched by the lyrics at the end of the song, “Believe in what your heart is saying, hear the melody that’s playing. Believe in what you feel inside and give your dreams the wings to fly. You have everything you need, if you just believe.” What a great message for all of us, especially our young people at Archmere, who do believe in themselves and go on to accomplish amazing things. They are able to give their “dreams the wings to fly” because of the love and support of their families and the trust they have in their teachers and support staff at Archmere.

With a granddaughter named “Virginia,” I recalled the famous editorial written by Francis Pharcellus Church titled, “Is There a Santa Claus?” It appeared in the New York Sun on September 21, 1897, in response to the question posed by another Virginia. 

Dear Editor —
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?
- Virginia O’Hanlon

Mr. Church explains to Virginia that just because no one can ever see him, there is a Santa Claus. He tells her that there are many things that we cannot see, but we have to trust and believe that they exist. 

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.

- Francis B. Church
Editor of the New York Sun, 1897

So, let us believe in the Spirit of Christmas. Let us believe in the things we cannot always see. Let us believe in the power of love. Let us, “Above all, trust in the slow work of God,” as Teilhard de Chardin wrote. He continues:

We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress, that it is made by passing through some stages of instability, and that it may take a very long time. And so I think it is with you. Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow. Let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good) will will make you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

As I think about our granddaughter, Virginia, and her future “Santa Claus” days and beyond, my prayer for her, all young children, and our students is that they believe in what they cannot see, know the love and support of family and friends, and trust in God’s presence in their lives, shaping them and leading them to be fulfilled in their life journeys.

Wishing all of you the gifts of Belief, Trust, and Love this Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Michael A. Marinelli, Ed.D. ‘76
Head of School
Archmere Academy is a private, Catholic, college preparatory co-educational academy,
grades 9-12 founded in 1932 by the Norbertine Fathers.