Scoot talks Jesus, Santa and candy canes w/Archbishop Gregory Aymond

December 22, 2018 - 10:21 am

As Christmas approaches and America witnesses daily and, at times, hourly turmoil on the political and global landscape, I had an opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond during his most hectic time of year. 

Since we all can find common denominators in most religions, I asked the Archbishop what is his Christmas message that should reach even beyond Catholics.  “I think the message for all of us is a message of peace” are the words he used.

We were a few minutes late for the interview with the Archbishop, because the city was clogged with holiday traffic, and we were under pressure to get to the Archbishop on time because his schedule is tight.  It seemed appropriate to talk about how the frantic pace of the holiday season can disguise the true meaning of Christmas.  Archbishop Aymond’s response “with shopping and gift-giving and family celebrations and cooking, the birth of Christ can get lost; and that’s most unfortunate, because that’s what we’re celebrating.”

Can the image of God and the image of Santa Claus coexist?  A few religious zealots have gone to shopping malls and in the name of promoting the real meaning of Christmas, they’ve taken it upon themselves to shout out to the young children waiting in line to sit on Santa’s lap “there is NO Santa Claus.”  I was interested in what a leader in the Catholic Church would say, when asked if God and Santa can both exist, and if maybe Santa is a way for very young children to first grasp the concept of God.  I was thrilled when the Archbishop said, “when we talk about Santa Claus, we’re really talking about someone who was originally a human being, became a leader in the Church, and was called home to heaven.  And so Santa Claus is a religious symbol in some ways.”

And in the moment with Archbishop Aymond just days before Christmas, I could not resist asking his opinion on the Nebraska elementary school principal, who was suspended after issuing a ban on candy canes, as part of classroom holiday decorations.  When I explained that the principal determined that the candy cane turned upside down represented “J” for Jesus and was therefore inappropriate for display in the classroom - his reaction was to the point: “This is beyond my comprehension!”

Archbishop Aymond had much more to say, and I think you will find his thoughts on different things, including the Catholic Church’s public relations nightmare with the sex abuse scandal, fascinating.

I hope you enjoy the full conversation with Archbishop Gregory Aymond as Christmas approaches.

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