Feast of Saint Nicholas
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December 6.—ST. NICHOLAS OF BARI.
ST. NICHOLAS, the patron Saint of Russia, was born toward the end of the third century. His uncle, the Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, ordained him priest, and appointed him abbot of a monastery; and on the death of the archbishop he was elected to the vacant see. Throughout his life he retained the bright and guileless manners of his early years, and showed himself the special protector of the innocent and the wronged. Nicholas once heard that a person who had fallen into poverty intended to abandon his three daughters to a life of sin. Determined, if possible, to save their innocence, the Saint went out by night, and, taking with him a bag of gold, flung it into the window of the sleeping father and hurried off. He, on awaking, deemed the gift a godsend, and with it dowered his eldest child. The Saint, overjoyed at his success, made like venture for the second daughter; but the third time as he stole away, the father, who was watching, overtook him and kissed his feet, saying: "Nicholas, why dost thou conceal thyself from me? Thou art my helper, and he who has delivered my soul and my daughters' from hell." St. Nicholas is usually represented by the side of a vessel, wherein a certain man had concealed the bodies of his three children whom he had killed, but who were restored to life by the Saint. He died in 342. His relics were translated in 1807, to Bari, Italy, and there, after fifteen centuries, "the manna of St. Nicholas" still flows from his bones and heals all kinds of sick.
Reflection.—Those who would enter heaven must be as little children, whose greatest glory is their innocence. Now, two things are ours to do: first, to preserve it in ourselves, or regain it by penance; secondly, to love and shield it in others.
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INSTRUCTION ON THE FEAST OF ST. NICHOLAS, BISHOP.
HiS great servant of God, whom St. Peter Damian calls the one chosen of God from his mother's womb, the ward of sanctity in childhood, the beauty of young men, the honor of the old, the glory of the priesthood, and the light of bishops, was born at Patara in Lycia, in the year 280, and was the fruit of the prayers of his pious parents. Even as an infant he abstained on Wednesdays and Fridays from his mother's breasts, and continued to fast on these days to the end of his life. He passed through his childhood free from all levity, and in such innocence and piety, that he served every one as a model of sanctity.
The 'early death of his parents left him heir to great wealth, which he distributed among the poor, particularly among those who were ashamed to beg, and gave the greater part to those whose poverty most endangered their salvation. Thus a certain nobleman had three daughters, but his poverty did not permit him to give them in marriage, and to obtain money he was about to expose them to a life of infamy. St. Nicholas hearing .this went in the stillness of the night, and threw money enough into the nobleman's house to suffice for a dowry for one of his daughters. This he twice repeated, and the maidens were married to virtuous men.
On account of his great virtues he was found worthy to be set as a light to the world. The bishop's seat at Myra was vacant, and God revealed to the priests assembled for the election, that the one who should first 'enter the church on the following morning was to be made bishop. This proved to be Nicholas who at first refused, but at the earnest solicitation of his superiors, and to obey God, he finally accepted the dignity, and was consecrated bishop. His elevated position made him the more humble, charitable, and perfect in all virtue. God honored him with the gift of miracles, so that he was called the man of miracles, and to test his patience, permitted him to be persecuted for his faith; he was exiled, was put in chains, and thrown into prison until peace was restored to the Church. After his release he attacked with all energy the heresy of Arius, which denied the divinity of Christ.' Exhausted by his untiring labors for the salvation of souls, and adorned with the brilliancy of the most beautiful virtues, he died in the year 327, after a short illness, repeating the words: "Lord, my soul has hoped in Thee; receive it into Thy hands!"
In the year 1087 his relics were brought by some merchants to Bari, in the kingdom of Naples. It pleased God to work the most conspicuous miracles through these relics. St. Nicholas is generally represented in the robes of a bishop, with mitre and crosier, a Bible 'and three golden apples in his left hand. The Bible is to signify his zeal to keep the doctrines of Christ unstained, and the three golden apples the three maidens Whom he rescued from infamy, as well as the many works of mercy he performed up to the time of his death.