The altar above the tomb of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy
Saint Nicholas is one of our very popular Saints. There are many churches named in his honor and he is the Patron Saint of more causes than any other Saint. He is the Patron Saint of mariners, merchants, bakers, travelers, brides, prisoners, archers, students and especially of children. He is the Patron Saint of many countries and towns and cities, including New York City. His popularity goes from east to west around the world. So who was this man, Saint Nicholas? He certainly was a lot more than the popular Santa Claus.
Saint Nicholas was the bishop of Myra which is in modern day Turkey. He lived in the early 300’s and was known to be a very Holy, devout, loving man. It is difficult to think of Saint Nicholas without thinking of all the legends that surrounded him. However, most of these legends just emphasize the great person that he truly was. We do know that he was the son of wealthy parents who raised him as a devout Christian. His uncle was the local bishop. Nicholas’s parents died when he was quite young. They left him a significant estate. Throughout his life Nicholas used that estate to help the poor. After his parents died, Nicholas was raised by his uncle, the Bishop of Patara. During the Roman Diocletian persecution, St. Nicholas was seized, tortured, and imprisoned. After his release, he continued his many works of charity and served the people of Myra as their bishop.
Nicholas was known for fighting the heresy of Arius. Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea in 325 where Arius tried to push his heresy. Nicholas became so angered at Arius that he slapped him in the face. The other bishops censored Nicholas for this, but later he regained his good status. The love of Jesus and the love of the Church and the love of the poor consumed Nicholas. Bishop Nicholas died on December 6, 343 in Myra and he was buried in his Cathedral of Myra. In later centuries, the area fell in to the hands of non Christians and in the year 1087 a group of Italians took his body and moved it to Bari, Italy where it is today.
There are only a few quotes from St. Nicholas in existence today so I will share two of those, as well as a few quotes from others about him. The last quote is from Anne Frank during the Nazi holocaust.
“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic Gods giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.” St. Nicholas of Myra
“Children, I beseech you to correct your hearts and thoughts, so that you may be pleasing to God. Consider that although we may reckon ourselves to be righteous and frequently succeed in deceiving men, we can conceal nothing from God. Let us therefore strive to preserve the holiness of our souls and to guard the purity of our bodies with all fervor. Ye are the temple of God, says the divine Apostle Paul; If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy.” St. Nicholas of Myra
“Everybody loves St Nicholas, because St. Nicholas loves everybody.” Fr Andrew Phillips
“Alas! How dreary would be the world if there was no Santa Claus! There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.” Francis P. Church
“Once again St. Nicholas Day Has even come to our hideaway; It won’t be quite as fun, I fear, As the happy day we had last year. Then we were hopeful, no reason to doubt That optimism would win the bout, And by the time this year came round, We’d all be free, and safe and sound. Still, let’s not forget it’s St. Nicholas Day, Though we’ve nothing left to give away. We’ll have to find something else to do: So everyone please look in their shoe!” – Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl