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St. Nicholas (December 6)

December 6, 2009

Yes, this is the morning to check your stockings for treasures from the holy bishop of Myra
(in modern-day Turkey).

According to legend, St. Nicholas lived a holy life even as a child.
When he grew up, he gave his money to the poor (his parents had been wealthy),
became a priest and made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land
to honor the places where Jesus lived.
On the way there, a storm threatened to sink the ship, but by his prayers all were saved
(which is why he is the patron saint of sailors).
It was after his return that he was chosen to be the bishop of Myra.
He was thrown into prison because of his faith
(when Christians were being persecuted by Emperor Diocletian),
but was eventually released when Constantine came to power.

St. Nicholas is best known for saving three young ladies from a life of misery.
The father of these girls was too poor to provide a suitable dowry for them,
so nobody wanted to marry them.
In those days, unmarried women were in danger of becoming slaves (or worse),
just to survive.
When Nicholas learned of this, he waited for nightfall (so he wouldn’t get any credit),
slipped through the darkness to their house and threw a bag of gold through the open window.
This was enough for the oldest daughter’s dowry and she was soon happily married.
Nicholas then did the same for each of the other two girls,
saving them all from a life of disgrace (which is why he’s also the patron saint of children).
Some versions of the story say that the gold fell into stockings
the girls had hanging by the fire to dry,
which is where we get the custom of hanging Christmas stockings, especially on St. Nicholas Day,
with the hope that they will be filled with treasures in the morning.

He went to his reward around 342 A.D.

From St. Nicholas himself we get the modern Christmas tradition of Santa Claus.
As the custom of hanging stockings for presents spread from culture to culture,
“Saint” became “Sinter”, and “Nicholas” became “Claus”.
From there, it was a very short step to “Santa Claus”.
And because non-Catholic parents didn’t want their children honoring saints,
the very identity of the mysterious giver was altered
until we have today’s myth of red suit, north pole and reindeer.

All the same, there is still a St. Nicholas living in Heaven.
He is even more compassionate, loving, generous and fond of children now
than he was the day he rescued three young ladies from a life of disgrace.
He still hears our prayers and presents them to the Most High
for the salvation of souls.


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