“The Faithful Elf and LaSalette”

The week of November 14th was a very difficult one for me. The job that is my livelihood had been especially hard. I was also going through some extremely upsetting things personally. On top of it all, I was sitting on just over three thousand copies of a book I was inspired to write. It carried a good and positive Christmas message of faith…but the plans I had for it were somehow slowly coming apart.

I’ve had a life that is not unlike many others I guess. I have always chosen to look at my successes and not back at my failures. One might say that that is easy if you have had some successes, and I have been fortunate to have them. There are many who don’t measure themselves the same way. They would be right in saying that, because this life is a hard one. But I also have been blessed by some very good people in my life who have always gently pushed me down the path of following my best instincts, even when I coasted off into the gutter from time to time.

This book marks the first time I have done something with my heart that just felt right…and then chose, without thought, to pursue it. I didn’t measure its chances, like I do with almost every other aspect of my life. I just “went with it.” When the book was rejected by an Agent for being “seasonal,” I decided to publish it myself. The Agent had only read the first three chapters. It’s engaging at that point, but the true meaning has yet to be revealed.

When I thought about it being “published”, I considered what that would mean to the book. I didn’t want anyone changing one piece of it. Not one word, not one character. It had come from a special place that I needed to preserve. So I invested family money into the book and published it myself. It was a very strange journey marked by coincidences. As I performed every new and unknown task that went into publishing this book, people seemed to be there every time I needed help.

I also have had private moments where some unexplained things have happened. The night before my first book signing, I asked for a sign that things would be good. I couldn’t sleep and it was 2AM. I had to be up in 5 hours. The first person who bought the book said she was buying it for her grandson, who was going through his own Christmas faith battle. She asked me to sign it…”To Tommy.” If you haven’t read my book, Tommy is the main character. First book, to Tommy.

Before my second signing, I had had a real bad day. I did not want to go. Again, I need to know I am on the right path. As I am getting off the commuter train, there is a man struggling with a bag. He has a cane and a neck brace. His left hand is shaking as he tries to put the bag on. He was the image of my father. The eyes he looked at me with were so familiar…it was weird. I offered to help and he shook me off, insisting he was fine and could do it. I asked him what the issue was with the shoulder, knowing in my heart what the real issue was. Sure enough, he said it first, “I have Parkinson’s Disease.” Any of you that know me personally probably got a little shiver there. Too close for coincidence to my dad. As I left the parking lot in my truck, he tottered across the front once again. Just dad getting in one last shot?

I almost have no explanation for the “circumstantial” things that have accompanied this book along the way. Almost.

I live in Attleboro, Massachusetts. It is the home of the LaSalette Shrine. Every Christmas season, starting at Thanksgiving, this Holy place turns on its hundreds of thousands of lights and people come from miles around to see the Shrine. I know of its Christmas fame, of course, but I also go there when I need extra spiritual help. I climb the holy steps and say a prayer of thanks, usually followed by a request for guidance. I don’t do it often. It seems somehow selfish to just “ask” for things all the time, but it is my personal opinion that God actually wants all of us to ask. He wants us to remember and know that He is a big part of this existence we live every day.

I was driving past the Shrine recently and it occurred to me that my book and the Shrine kind of fit together. Accompanying that thought of selling at the Shrine was also a bothersome feeling. Even though I have given away proceeds from book sales and free books from every signing (and there had only been a few). I questioned whether this motivation I had was about selling a book or putting two things together that were “right.” LaSalette Shrine is not a place to be simply “shilling a book.” I do, however, believe wholeheartedly in the message or I wouldn’t have written the book. I decided to take a chance and leave it in better hands.

I called the Shrine and Brother Bob Russell asked me to come in for a meeting to discuss the idea. I went early and walked up the Shrine steps to the Cross. I said a prayer for help with the personal things I had going on and then asked that any answer about my book be one that was right and good. I then went to see Brother Bob.

As I sat in front of him, a man I had never met, I was truly intimidated. I did not know what this man of such faith would think of me, a common person, writing a book about something he was more expert in. He picked up my book and looked at it, saying, “Your name is St.Jacques?...SAINT Jacques?”

“Um, yes.”

“Hmmmm…so tell me about this book,” he said with a smile.

I told him about the book, its beginnings as a fun book about Santa and the Elves and then its ultimate evolution into something more faith based and the true meaning of Christmas. I explained how, in the book, the magic of the Kringles was no match for the power of God when it came to creating Christmas miracles. He was very taken by how I had intertwined Santa and faith. He was also very anxious to ask me a question. It wasn’t something I expected.

“Did you have a vision of writing this book?”

“Um, no…not really. I wrote it over three years. There were moments when I was inspired to make it about something moving and meaningful…but I wouldn’t call it a vision. Maybe just inspired.” It was an odd question. He seemed to be okay with my answer. We moved on.

He was very interested in how I published it. How I designed it from cover to cover. He was struck by the idea that I built a website that allowed for charitable contributions and that I would be donating to St.Jude Children’s Hospital, which was a charity he contributes to as well.

He suddenly looked at me and said, “Here’s what we’re going to do. You know what? Just come with me.”

We walked outside and over to the Shrine. When we went into the vendor area, he took me to a spot in the room. He didn’t look around to find me a place, he had a deliberate spot in mind. His words to me were, “I need you to be right here.” Those were his exact words.

He asked, “Are you famous?”

“What? Who? Me? As an author or as a person? Well, that makes no difference, because the answer is ‘no’ either way.”

“How many books do you have to sell?”

I didn’t know why he was asking. I stammered out, “I don’t know, a thousand or so in my garage, and another two thousand online.”

He just smiled and said, “This is your spot from Friday to Sunday.”

I will tell you that the experience has been surreal. There are some personal aspects to the meeting that I can’t share, but suffice to say, prayers I made on those steps, as in years past, were being addressed.

I don’t know where this is going. I do know this story is intended to help others' faith...I just never thought it would affect my own faith so distinctly. I feel like a train just left the station and I hopped on the last car. It's like something is guiding this that is way out of my league. I am thankful but I am also a little unnerved. That’s my honest response. I will keep the story going and stay with the journey. Wish me luck and, to you and all your families, I wish you all the best, from me and my family, this Christmas Season.

A Faithful Elf Book Cover