St. Nicolas

Feast Day December 6th

Patron Saint of bakers, pawnbrokers, sailors, merchants, archers, and children

The veneration with which this saint has been honored in both East and West, the number of altars and churches erected in his memory, and the countless stories associated with his name all bear witness to something extraordinary about him. Yet the one fact concerning the life of Nicholas of which we can be absolutely certain is that he was bishop of Myra in the fourth century. According to tradition, he was born at Patara, Lycia, a province of southern Asia Minor where St. Paul had planted the faith. He was very well brought up, we are told, by pious and virtuous parents, who set him to studying the sacred books at the age of five. His parents died while he was still young, leaving him with a comfortable fortune, which he resolved to use for works of charity. Soon an opportunity came. A citizen of Patara had lost all his money and his three daughters could not find husbands because of their poverty. When Nicholas heard of this, he took a bag of gold and at night tossed it through an open window of the man’s house. Here was a dowry for the eldest girl, and she was quickly married. Nicholas did the same for the second and then for the third daughter. On the last occasion the father was watching by the window, and overwhelmed his young benefactor with gratitude.

It happened that Nicholas was in the city of Myra when the clergy and people were meeting together to elect a new bishop, and God directed them to choose him. The Greek writers go on to say that now, as leader, “the divine Nicholas was seized by the magistrates, tortured, then chained and thrown into prison with other Christians. But when the great and religious Constantine, chosen by God, assumed the imperial diadem of the Romans, the prisoners were released from their bonds and with them the illustrious Nicholas.”

The traditions all agree that Nicholas was buried in his episcopal city of Myra. Some two centuries later, his feast was celebrated and there was a church built over his tomb. The tremendous popularity of the saint is indicated by an anonymous writer of the tenth century who declares: “The West as well as the East acclaims and glorifies him. Wherever there are people, in the country and the town, in the villages, in the isles, in the farthest parts of the earth, his name is revered and churches are erected in his honor.” Devotion to St. Nicholas increased and many miracles were attributed to his intercession.

The image of St. Nicholas appeared often on Byzantine seals. In the West he has often been invoked by prisoners, and in the East by sailors. One legend has it that during his life-time he appeared off the coast of Lycia to some storm-tossed mariners who invoked his aid, and he brought them safely to port.

Over the years, stories of his miracles and work for the poor spread to other parts of the world. He became known as the protector of children and sailors and was associated with gift-giving. The Dutch continued to celebrate the feast day of St. Nicholas, December 6. It was a common practice for children to put out their shoes the night before. In the morning, they would discover the gifts that St. Nicholas had left there for them. In America, St. Nicholas went through many transformations and eventually Sinterklaas became Santa Claus. Instead of giving gifts on December 6, he became a part of the Christmas holiday.


Intercessory Prayers to St. Nicolas

O good St. Nicholas,
you who are the joy of the children,
put in my heart the spirit of childhood,
which the gospel speaks, and teach me to seed happiness around me.
You, whose feast prepares us for Christmas,
open my faith to the mystery of God made man.
You good bishop and shepherd,
help me to find my place in the Church
and inspire the Church to be faithful to the Gospel.
O good Saint Nicholas, patron of children, sailors and the helpless,
watch over those who pray to Jesus, your Lord and theirs,
as well as over those who humble themselves before you.
Bring us all in reverence to the Holy Child of Bethlehem,
when true joy and peace are found.


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Prayer in honor of Saint Nicholas:

We thank you for good Saint Nicholas who was known for his love and care for children.
Through his intercession we ask you to help us always to take care of children, to protect and guide them, and to keep them safe. Help us to be open to all that children can teach us about pure joy and unconditional love. May we in turn help our children to grow into the beautiful persons that you created them to be. Keep us mindful of the needs of others and to reach out with love and generosity as Saint Nicholas did. We rejoice in your servant Nicholas and pray that we too may follow you with singleness of heart and mind.


St. Nicholas, glorious Confessor of Christ, assist us in thy loving kindness. O glorious Saint Nicholas, the noble preacher of Christ, you are a great and fervid helper of those in difficulties, all-compassionate, a precious intercessor for those who are far off and those who are near. We shout to thee to intercede with the Lord, that we be delivered from every tribulation.

O most holy Nicholas, thou extraordinary Saint of the Lord, our loving defender and ready helper in sorrows everywhere: help us sinners in the present life: entreat the Lord God to grant us remission of all of our sins, by deed and by word. Entreat the Lord God and Maker of all creation, to deliver us from trials that we may always glorify the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and thy merciful intercession, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.