The Catholic Defender: December 6, The Feast Of St. Nicholas
St. Nicholas was born in the 3rd century (250) near Patara which is today along the Southern Coast of modern day Turkey.
St. Nicholas was born to very wealthy parents (Epiphanus and Johanna) who brought him up in the Catholic Faith.
St. Nicholas developed a strong love for Christ from a young age.
Due to a local epidemic, St. Nicholas lost both his parents leaving him with an Uncle, Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra.
St. Nicholas would take the name of his Uncle. He learned to read the Scriptures, to serve at Mass, would become a Presbyter.
Soon, he became known for his charity among the poor and needy, the sick and the suffering. He would secretly give gifts to children, he would put coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him.
Legends tell of him saving a woodcutters Daughters from slavery and did many more acts of kindness.As a young man, he became the Bishop of Myra continuing his act of love for God’s people.
St. Nicholas would fall prey in the persecution of the Roman Emperor Diocletian who’s Edict savagely persecuted the Church.
Many Religious were placed in prisons, were killed by the local magistrates.
The prisons were so full there were little room for the real criminals. Such was the hatred of Diocletian.
When Constantine became the Emperor, he freed the Christians and St. Nicholas was released back into society with his faith intact.
Historically, St. Nicholas participated at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. and helped draft the present day “Nicean Creed” that we profess at Mass.
It is debated that St. Nicholas slapped the heretic Arius because of the heresy he was preaching at the Council.
Legend has it that the Bishops were not happy with what he did and placed him in jail. That night Jesus and Mary appear to St. Nicholas giving him the Gospels and the bishops tunic.
St. Nicholas dies in Myra between 343-352 on 6 December. In 1087, Italian merchants stole his remains and took them to Southeastern Italy to Bari where they are located to this day.
In 2009 Turkey has asked for the remains back but to this point, that has not happened.Each year at the anniversary of his death, St. Nicholas remains exudes a myrrh like liquid substance that reports miraculous works.
Manna is taken from his tomb in a flask. In 1950, there was a study conducted on the remains of St. Nicholas which pictures were taken and measure the contents in the crypt.
St. Nicholas was a little more that 5 feet tall. It was also noticed he had suffered a broken nose.
In 2005, the results of the findings were sent to England for forensic laboratory research.
The miraculous could not be explained with scientific data. There are many groups who claim St. Nicholas as a patron. St. Nicholas built seaports earning a love of sailors who proclaimed the works of St. Nicholas.
Many also proclaimed miracles.In a three hundred year period, about 2,000 churches were named after St. Nicholas.
Today, in Germany and Poland, young boys dress up as St. Nicholas acting out charity among the poor.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrives riding on a steamship from Spain to ride on a white horse throughout the towns.
Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes hoping that St. Nicholas might have a treat for them in exchange for a treat for his horse.
The modern Santa Claus seems to come from an 1821 children’s book called “The Children’s Friend” depicts Santa Claus arriving from the North riding on a sled with a flying reindeer.
My favorite depiction of Santa Claus is one of him kneeling before the Christ Child. Santa Claus maintains his red clothing that is derived from being a Cardinal in the Catholic Church.