St. Nicholas was the personification of Christian love and compassion. Love is what made St. Nicholas so popular when he was alive and still remembered after seventeen hundred years. St. Nicholas was born sometime in the third century A.D. in the town of Patara, located in Asia Minor, now a part of Turkey.
His parents were of Greek extraction. They were Christians and very pious, so we can say that St. Nicholas was of Greek birth. His parents raised St. Nicholas in the Christian faith and prepared him for the priesthood by teaching him the ways of our lord.
When St. Nicholas’ parents died, they left him with considerable patrimony; most of which he gave unto the sick and poor. He then became a priest of the Church. Later, when the Archbishop of Myra in Lycia died, it was St. Nicholas who was chosen Archbishop of that Diocese. As Bishop, St. Nicholas faithfully served his Lord and his people. And therein is the secret of his great popularity. His life was one of service to God and to man. He loved the Lord with all his heart, soul and strength, but he also loved his neighbor with a similar dedication. He was a true friend of the poor, the sick, of widows and orphans. St. Nicholas built himself a lasting memorial of love.
Countless stories and legends have come to be told about this popular Saint. Perhaps the best known is his concern for the man who had decided to sell his three daughters into slavery because of his utter poverty. When St. Nicholas heard this, he went under the cover of darkness and threw a bag of gold coins through the window of the man’s house. Three times he repeated the act, thus providing adequate dowry for the three daughters to be married.
Other stories tell of miracles wrought by him at sea, so that he as become the patron Saint of Sailors. Many Greek ships sail the oceans today with an icon of St. Nicholas. He loved children and performed through the healing of power of our Lord Jesus Christ many miracles concerning children. Tradition tells us he healed a young girls arm. He also saved a little boy from a storm at sea and he brought back to life three dead children. Ancient tradition tells of his taking part in the First Ecumenical Council against the Heresy of Arius.
An eight century biographer writes of St. Nicholas, “On earth there is no such isolated place, wilderness or deserted area that has not been reached by the glory of the miracles of this most Saintly Bishop, Nicholas the Miracle Worker.” After his death, St. Nicholas was buried in Myra where he had lived and served as bishop so faithfully and with great distinction. But his relics were taken away some six hundred years later in Bari, Italy, where they remain until today. The Patron Saint of children, of sailors, of pawn-brokers, of the poor and the sick, surely St. Nicholas is one of the church’s most popular saints. His fame continues on.
May his spirit, his grace and his blessings be upon us always.