Invisible gifts produce visible results.
Paulo Coelho | December 2008 issue
A medieval legend tells us that in the country we know today as Austria, the Burkhard family, a man, a woman and a child used to amuse people at Christmas parties by reciting poetry, singing ancient troubadour ballads and juggling. Of course, no money was left over to buy presents, but the man always told his son, “Do you know why Santa Claus’ bag never gets empty, although there are so many children in the world? Because it may be full of toys, but sometimes more important things must be delivered, what we call ‘invisible gifts.’ In a broken home, he tries to bring harmony and peace on the holiest night in Christianity. Where love is lacking, he deposits a seed of faith in children’s hearts. When the future seems black and uncertain, he brings hope. In our case, the day after Father Christmas comes to visit us, we’re glad to be alive and doing our work, which is to make people happy. Never forget that.”
Time went by, the boy grew up, and one day the family passed in front of the impressive Melk Abbey, which had just been built.
“Father, do you remember many years ago you told me the story of Santa Claus and his invisible gifts? I think I received one of those gifts once: the vocation to become a priest. Would you mind if I took my first step toward my dream?”
Although they needed their son’s company, the family understood and respected the boy’s wish. They knocked at the door of the monastery and were given a loving, generous welcome by the monks, who accepted the young Buckhard as a novice.
Christmas Eve came around. Precisely on that day, a special miracle happened in Melk: Our Lady, carrying the baby Jesus in her arms, descended to Earth to pay a visit to the monastery.
The priests lined up, and each stood proudly before the Virgin to pay homage to the Madonna and her Son. One of them displayed the beautiful paintings that decorated the place; another showed a copy of a Bible that had taken 100 years to write and illustrate, while a third recited the names of the saints.
At the very end of the line, young Buckhard anxiously waited his turn. His parents were simple people, and all they’d taught him was to toss balls into the air and juggle.
When it came his turn, the other priests wanted to put an end to paying homage, since they felt the ex-juggler had nothing important to add and might even mar the image of the abbey. Nevertheless, deep in his heart, he also felt a great need to give something of himself to Jesus and the Virgin. Feeling ashamed before the reproachful gazes of his brothers, he took some oranges from his pocket and began to toss them up and catch them, creating a beautiful circle in the air just as he used to do when he and his family traveled to all the fairs in the region.
At that instant, the baby Jesus, lying in Our Lady’s lap, began to clap his hands with joy. So it was to young Buckhard that the Virgin held out her arms, letting him hold the smiling child for a few moments.
The legend ends by saying that on account of this miracle, every 200 years a new Buckhard knocks on the door of Melk Abbey, is welcomed in, and warms the hearts of all who meet him as long as he remains.