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St. Nicholas

Lived: (d. 350?) | Feast Day: Saturday, December 6, 2014

The absence of the “hard facts” of history is not necessarily an obstacle to the popularity of saints, as the devotion to St. Nicholas shows. Both the Eastern and Western Churches honor him, and it is claimed that after the Blessed Virgin, he is the saint most pictured by Christian artists. And yet, historically, we can pinpoint only the fact that Nicholas was the fourth-century bishop of Myra, a city in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor.As with many of the saints, however, we are able to capture the relationship which Nicholas had with God through the admiration which Christians have had for him—an admiration expressed in the colorful stories which have been told and retold through the centuries.

Perhaps the best-known story about Nicholas concerns his charity toward a poor man who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters of marriageable age. Rather than see them forced into prostitution, Nicholas secretly tossed a bag of gold through the poor man’s window on three separate occasions, thus enabling the daughters to be married. Over the centuries, this particular legend evolved into the custom of gift-giving on the saint’s feast. In the English-speaking countries, St. Nicholas became, by a twist of the tongue, Santa Claus—further expanding the example of generosity portrayed by this holy bishop.

The critical eye of modern history makes us take a deeper look at the legends surrounding St. Nicholas. But perhaps we can utilize the lesson taught by his legendary charity, look deeper at our approach to material goods in the Christmas season and seek ways to extend our sharing to those in real need.
“In order to be able to consult more suitably the welfare of the faithful according to the condition of each one, a bishop should strive to become duly acquainted with their needs in the social circumstances in which they live…. He should manifest his concern for all, no matter what their age, condition, or nationality, be they natives, strangers, or foreigners” (Vatican II, Decree on the Bishops’ Pastoral Office, 16).***

Merry Christmas, St. Nicholas

A Personal Saint is a prayer partner,
who lived in a different age:
A person with whom
you have something in common.
So many to choose from.
So many to consider, before it hit me:
Just how many times have I declared my love
for all things Christmas?

The twinkling lights…
the red and the green…
A warm fireplace…
Star over Bethlehem…
Common shepherds
keeping common sheep…
The flame of a candle
coaxing prayer toward heaven….

Dear Old St. Nicholas,
loved and honored
by East and West,
Patron of more causes
than any other Saint.

He’s the Patron of bakers,
scholars, teachers, and poets:
all of which I have been.
He’s the Saint for prostitutes,
murderers, and corn-measurers:
none of which I have been.
Saint Nicholas is an Advent Saint.
And the key to a joyous Christmas
is in the Keeping of Advent.

Even in the Middle Ages,
when Nicholas walked the earth,
he showed Christians
how to live for their faith
rather than how to die for it.

He’s a special Saint for children.
And yes—in my heart—
I’m a squirming child,
safe only in the vastness
of God’s wide arms,
where I am loved for being
the person I was created to be.

Merry Christmas, St. Nicholas.
I choose you.

December 2014