No mall? No problem! Virtual Santa visits bring the jolliness to your home

Rocio Madera

This year, many of our Christmas plans have dramatically changed, including those of our dear friend from the North Pole, Santa Claus. 

Susen Mesco, parishioner at Immaculate Conception Parish in Lafayette and owner of American Events and Promotions, has spent over 36 years bringing a magic touch to the holiday season with her pool talented performers who portray Santa Claus. However, this year’s pandemic has changed the tradition, limiting Santa visits and canceling most of her events. Yet, there is one thing that hasn’t changed: her commitment to bringing joy to the little ones.  

With the aim of doing her part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while bringing joy, magic and Christmas traditions to homes across the country, Mesco and her team came up with the idea of ​​creating virtual Santa visits. 

“The Claus Family at American Events and Santa Visits USA have been working with technology for seven months to transfer the live stage to the small screen presentation with songs, stories, interactive family activities, puppets, magic, props, and special guest stars who pop in,” Mesco said.  

Mesco and her team, which includes 150 of the top holiday performers in the country, worked for months to create children activities, including Christian readings, to help fill children with excitement the same way they do when they visit Santa at the mall.  

“Children are very resilient! They have easily adapted to this new technology of Zoom wonderfully,” she said. “Standing in line at the mall isn’t a lot of fun if you’re five years old. With virtual Santa visits, there is no endless waiting in line exposed to germs. Children will spend 10-15 dedicated virtual personal minutes with Santa instead of 90 seconds at the mall.” 

Her virtual parties include interactive children activities for up to 90 families at once that range from karaoke to storytelling among others. Families can also request personalized Santa messages and visits.  

“We have virtual visits and personalized messages from Santa, Mesco explained. “Santa’s secret Elves provide us with details about the children. Santa spends 10-15 minutes with each family singing, telling stories and discussing events from the year as well as gentle reminders to pick up toys and brush teeth or eat more vegetables.”  

This year, Mesco wants to share the magic of Christmas with Catholic families and make sure that no one is left out by offering a FREE program that includes Christian stories, religious songs and some reading of the bible. Visit SantaVisitsUSA.com and use the code DENCATHOLIC for access to this program. 

“All of our Santa family is heartbroken that we cannot be with the children, but Santa needs to stay healthy at the North Pole so he can make his rounds on Christmas Eve,” Mesco concluded. “We can all be responsible. Virtual is the answer.” 

This program is open from Nov. 1st until January 31st. For more information, visit SantaVisitsUSA.com
 

COMING UP: Five tips for reading the Word of God

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Sunday, Jan. 24 marks “The Sunday of the Word of God,” instituted by Pope Francis last year and to be held every year on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time. This may strike us as odd, as we might think to ourselves, “but isn’t the Bible read at every Sunday Mass?” Certainly so. Not only that, but every daily celebration of the Mass proclaims the Word of God.

What’s different about “The Sunday of the Word of God,” however, is that it’s not just about hearing the Bible read on Sundays. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith notes, it “reminds us, pastors and faithful alike, of the importance and value of Sacred Scripture for the Christian life, as well as the relationship between the word of God and the liturgy: ‘As Christians, we are one people, making our pilgrim way through history, sustained by the Lord, present in our midst, who speaks to us and nourishes us. A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the Risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers. For this reason, we need to develop a closer relationship with Sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, inflicted as we are by so many forms of blindness.’” This gives us a wonderful opportunity to pause and reflect on the Sacred Scriptures. 

There are two means by which God Divinely reveals truths to us: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. As such, the Bible is not merely a human document, nor simply a collection of amazing stories that call us to do heroic things, or a collection of wise sayings. Rather, the Scriptures are “inspired.” St. Paul has a beautiful teaching about this in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice, That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work.” By “inspired” we mean that God is the principle author of the Bible.

Certainly there were different men who physically wrote the words on the papyrus. Yet these men were influenced by the grace of inspiration to write, not just their own words, but God’s. And so the Scriptures are a mysterious congruence of Divine and human authorship – the human writers capably made full use of language, literary forms, creativity, and writing style to communicate their message, yet they did so under the grace of Divine inspiration. This means that while they wrote in such a way that they had full freedom to write as they wanted, what they wrote was also, “to a tee,” exactly as God wanted written. God is the principle author of the Bible, the human author its secondary writer. Such inspiration is how, despite the various human authors, events, and historical and cultural contexts behind the 73 Biblical texts, we’re still left with only one story since they all have the same one primary author. 

Given that the Bible is the written word of God, I’d like to offer a few “tips” for reading the Bible, since it certainly cannot be read like any other text. 

1. Pray! We must pray before opening the Scriptures for enlightenment from God. We must pray after reading in thanksgiving to God. And we must pray throughout reading in order to encounter God in Scripture and apply it to our life. Of course, the tried and trusted practice of praying the Scriptures is Lectio DivinaThe Ladder of Monks by Guigo II is the ancient resource for Lectio Divina, while a helpful book to get you started is Dr. Tim Gray’s Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina

2. Remember that you are in no rush. The important point is encountering Christ in the Scriptures, not racing through them. Speed reading isn’t reading, after all, much less when applied to the Word of God. It’s not about getting through the Bible, but encountering Christ therein. That may be a few chapters at a time or may actually be only one verse that you pray with. Whatever the case, slow and steady wins the race, as Aesop reminds us. 

3. We have to read the Scriptures regularly, daily if possible. We read in Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Meditating day and night. A good way to start would be to read one Psalm a night as a part of your nightly prayer. Ever better would be praying that one Psalm with your spouse, if married. 

4. Do not worry about starting on page one and reading from cover to cover. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the text. We all know about Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Moses and the Plagues. But how many understand animal sacrifices in the Book of Leviticus or its purity laws? It’s very easy, starting from page one and flipping straight through, to lose sight of the story of salvation history. Start from page one if you’d like, but don’t feel like you can’t start with whatever book (especially the Gospels) that you find yourself drawn to. 

5. Come take classes with the Denver Catholic Biblical School! In chapter eight of the Book of Acts, we read of an Ethiopian Eunuch reading from the Prophet Isaiah. When the Deacon Philip asks him if he understands what he’s reading, the Eunuch responds, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” This is what we at the Biblical School are here for – to guide you in your encounter with Christ in the Sacred Scriptures. We’re in the middle of our Scripture classes already for this year, but we always start new classes in the fall every September. And in the meantime, we have plenty of things still coming for this year – a class on Catholic Social Teaching that begins on Jan. 27 a lecture series for Lent that starts on March 1, a conference on the Sacred Heart being offered on May 15 and Aug. 28, and a six-week class on St. Joseph in the summer starting in July. We have something for everybody – just reach out to us!