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Saint Nicholas of Myra was born in the 3rd century in the village of Patara Lycia. He was an only child, and his parents, Theophanes and Nonna, who had vowed to dedicate him to God, and were both wealthy. Throughout his childhood, his parents raised him to be a devout Christian. Nicholas was a very educated child for his time(Myers). Even when Nicholas was a kid, he did some miraculous things. According to Catholic Online, “He was exceedingly well brought up by his parents and trod piously in their footsteps. “ As Nicholas was growing up, he regularly went to study and learn with his teacher.
One day as he was on his way to learn with his teacher, he came upon a woman with a withered hand. Stopping, he approached her, laid his hand on her, prayed to God, and made the sign of the cross. The hand miraculously became whole. This was the earliest miracle that has been attributed to Saint Nicholas. Another miracle Nicholas made when he was young was when Nicholas went on a journey to walk where Jesus’ walked. There as he walked where Jesus walked, he sought to more deeply experience Jesus’ life, passion, and resurrection. Returning by sea, a mighty storm threatened to wreck the ship. Nicholas calmly prayed. The terrified sailors were amazed when the wind and waves suddenly calmed, sparing them all. And so St. Nicholas is the patron of sailors and voyagers (Myers). Sadly Nicholas’ parents then died due to an epidemic when he was a young man. Leaving Nicholas well of, he was raised by his uncle – the Bishop of Patara. Nicholas was devoted to using his inheritance to works of charity, and his uncle mentored him and later ordained him as a priest (Catholic Online).
After Nicholas’ uncle ordained him as a priest, he soon got the opportunity to use his inheritance for the greater good. Nicholas was informed that a citizen of Patara lost all of his money, and needed to support his three daughters who could not find husbands due to their poverty. The father was thinking of giving them over to prostitution and thus, Nicholas threw a bag of gold into the man’s house. At intervals, Nicholas did the same for the other two daughters. On the third night, the father was on watch and recognized the man who was throwing the bags of gold into their home.
According to Catholic Online, “The father then proceeded to thank Nicholas for his kindness. ” (Catholic Online). Coming to the city of Myra when the clergy and people of the province were in session to elect a new bishop, Saint Nicholas was indicated by God as the man they should choose (Catholic Online). When Nicholas was ordained the Bishop of Myra, the Christians were being ruthlessly persecuted during the beginning of the 4th century by the Roman emperor, Diocletian. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals such as the thieves, murderers, and robbers (Myers). Later were released under the rule of Constantine the Great (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica). Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors (Myers). After Nicholas’ release, he attended the Council of Nicaea in A. D. 325.
The Council of Nicaea was the First Ecumenical Council, A. D. 325 called to preserve the unity of the church which was threatened by competing for claims about the nature of Jesus Christ (Myers). Several sources state St. Nicholas is believed to have died on December 6, 343 (Biography. com). After Saint Nicholas’ death, 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. Saint Nicholas is also known as the patron saint of children, merchants, Russia, sailors, the unmarried, and women (Llewe. According to Myers, Nicholas was recognized as a saint long before the canonization process was established in the 10th century and also before the Great Schism (1054) between the church in Rome and Constantinople. In Nicholas’ time saints were declared by acclamation, the unanimous consent of the people. Also, After Saint Nicholas’ death, he was a popular saint in Europe until the time of the Reformation in the 1500s, a religious movement that led to the creation of Protestantism, which turned away from the practice of honoring saints. St. Nicholas, however, remained an important figure in Holland. (Biography. com)
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. Dutch immigrants brought the legend of St. Nicholas, known to them as Sint Nikolaas or by his nickname, Sinterklaas, to America in the 17th century (Biography. com).
St. Nicholas went through many transformations in America: Sinterklaas became Santa Claus, and instead of giving gifts on December 6, he became a part of the Christmas holiday. In the 1820 poem, “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore, he is described as a jolly, heavy man who comes down the chimney to leave presents for deserving children and drives a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. The cartoonist Thomas Nast added to the St. Nicholas legend with an 1881 drawing of Santa as wearing a red suit with white fur trim. Once a kind, charitable bishop, Saint Nicholas had become the Santa Claus we know today (Biography. com). To conclude, Saint Nicholas, also known as Nikolaos of Myra, knew from the very start that he was going to dedicate his life to God. Even though his parents died tragically when he was a young man, he still followed Jesus’ words and did miraculous things without expecting anything back in return. Nicholas also used all of the inheritance to help the needy, the sick, and the suffering.
He was an amazing saint and that’s why Christians celebrate his feast day on December 6th. Through the centuries St. Nicholas has continued to be venerated by Catholics and Orthodox and honored by Protestants. By his example of generosity to those in need, especially children, St. Nicholas continues to be a model for the compassionate life. I chose Saint Nicholas because he would give, and give without expecting anything back in return.
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