Thursday, December 06, 2007

St. Nicholas' Day

Today, the 6th of December is the feast of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. He had been a monk and an abbot before being elected bishop of Myra. During the persecution of Diocletian he was tortured as were many of the bishops of the Church. He was one of the fathers of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea. This council addressed the teachings of Arius on the nature of Christ: that Christ was only a good man whom God exalted. This was refuted by the bishops of the Church and Arius was condemned. Many of the bishops, as Nicholas, had suffered persecution during the reign of Diocletian, so the council must have looked like a gathering of war veterans.

The legends of St. Nicholas are many, and he is the patron saint against imprisonment, robberies, and robbers. He is patron of pharmacists, bakers, barrel makers (coopers) sailors, boys, brewers, brides, captives, children, dock workers, fishermen, grooms, judges; lawsuits lost unjustly, Ireland, maidens, merchants, murderers; newlyweds, old maids, parish clerks, paupers, pawnbrokers; perfumeries, perfumers, pilgrims, poor people, scholars, school children, shoe shiners, single women, thieves, travelers, and water men, among others.

I always told the boys in the dorm to put their shoes out before they went to bed and St. Nicholas would come and give them something in the night. Mostly I would put candy in them, but there were some who merited a trip to the old powerhouse at the abbey so that I could bring a few lumps of coal. The point was made.
The picture above shows the saint preventing the execution of innocents.