Monday, December 6, 2010

The Feast of St. Nicholas

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas. Who is St. Nicholas and why do we celebrate him as a Saint? Relatively little is known about St. Nicholas, but legends fill in the story of his true history. He is closely linked to Christmas, so it is only fitting that his Feast day is celebrated in December. His fame spread across western Europe, his figure developed into the person we know as Santa Claus, which comes from the Dutch for Saint Nicholas...Sinte Klaas. The story of St. Nicholas was first brought to America by Dutch settlers. His final transformation from bishop-saint to folk figure came in 1823 when Clement C. Moore wrote his famous poem, "The Night Before Christmas."

St. Nicholas was born during the third century in the village of Patara of Lycia, in the country of Anatolia. His parents were virtuous Christians. Nicholas was their only child...and he, too, grew in virtue. As Nicholas grew and matured in age and wisdom he also grew in his love of God and wanted to serve God. He was ordained a priest and later a bishop.

St. Nicholas was known for his generosity. He secretly provided dowries for poor girls. He also played a role in the release of three unjustly convicted army officers. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors. In fact, sailors in the Aegean Sea customarily greet each other with: May St. Nicholas hold the tiller.

He very early became a patron saint for children. On the eve of St. Nicholas many families have the custom of hanging stockings above the fireplace or putting their shoes outside their bedroom doors in hopes that St. Nicholas would visit their homes while they are sleeping and slip a treat in their stocking or shoe. St. Nicholas NEVER failed to visit the Etienne Family. Even today, my Benedictine Sisters are visited every December 6th with treats from St. Nicholas!

I was born one minute after the Feast of St. Nicholas and the day before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I've always loved the name my parents gave me at birth, Mary honor of St. Nicholas and our beautiful Blessed Mother, Mary. Advent is the time when we prepare to greet Christ—who came as a babe in a manger, who comes into our lives each day, and who will come again at the end of time. During this season of Advent we celebrate the feast of many wonderful saints as we wait in joyful hope for the birth of our Lord and Savior.

Today we call St. Nicholas by a different name, but one thing remains the same: Saint Nicholas, our present-day Santa Claus, is a symbol of unselfish giving...The TRUE meaning of Christmas. Let's allow the spirit of St. Nicholas to enter our hearts and allow us to have a generous spirit always looking for ways to make life a little better for those around us. Tis the season to give abundantly!

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