ST. NICHOLAS OF BARI: LIFE AND WORSHIP OF THE PATRON SAINT

ST. NICHOLAS OF BARI: LIFE AND WORSHIP OF THE PATRON SAINT

Renowned as Nicholas of Bari, St. Nicholas of Myra stands as a revered figure within both the Catholic and Orthodox Church, holding a cherished status as the patron saint of juveniles and seafarers alike. His tenure as a bishop in the 4th century, situated in Myra, Asia Minor (now recognized as Demre, Turkey), remains veiled in layers of fable and devout observance.

Accounts concerning the life of St. Nicholas are somewhat scarce, yet prevailing belief suggests his birth in the 3rd century AD in Patara, Turkey, into a family of affluence and devout piety. The chronicles of his formative years are marked by the tragedy of losing his parents to an epidemic, an eventuality that bequeathed him their substantial fortune. Rather than succumbing to the allure of wealth, Nicholas elected to embrace the tenets of Jesus's ministry, divesting himself of all material possessions to tend to the destitute. This selfless deed emerged as the cornerstone of his existence, serving as a wellspring of inspiration for the tales that ensued.

 

The Ascension to the Episcopacy

Nicholas ventured from his native land to relocate to Myra, where he ascended to the esteemed position of bishop. An anecdote is entwined with his appointment, recounting the abrupt demise of the incumbent bishop of Myra. Allegedly, the clergy, convened to appoint a successor, received a celestial directive: the inaugural individual to traverse the church's threshold at dawn would assume the mantle of bishop. Owing to his fervent devotion and ceaseless supplication, St Nicholas emerged as the first to ingress the hallowed confines of the church, thereby clinching the episcopal office.

Throughout his tenure as bishop, St. Nicholas confronted severe persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire under the reign of Emperor Diocletian. Subjected to the rigors of torture and imprisonment on grounds of his unwavering faith, the st. remained resolute in his spiritual allegiance to Christ.

Fables abound regarding the myriad miracles attributed to St. Nicholas during this epoch of adversity. It is recounted that he secured the liberation of individuals unjustly condemned to death, even thwarting the descent of the executioner's blade. On another occasion, he intervened to resurrect three blameless children slain by a malevolent butcher, thus imbuing him with a mantle of safeguarding over the young.

While definitive evidence is lacking, tradition purports St. Nicholas's involvement in the seminal Council of Nicaea in AD 325, convened to address the theological discord of Arianism. An anecdotal vestige of this purported engagement recounts an incident during the council, wherein the saint, incensed by the doctrines of the Arians, administered a resounding rebuke to one of their proponents, thereby enduring incarceration for his audacious defiance.

 

Demise and Beatification

St. Nicholas passed away on December 6, presumably in AD 346, and attained sainthood through popular acclaim. His feast day evolved into a time dedicated to acts of benevolence, particularly towards youths, a tradition that endures to this day.

The sepulcher of Saint Nicholas in Myra swiftly transformed into a site of pilgrimage and reverence, where countless faithful attributed miraculous occurrences and blessings to his intercession. Since antiquity, his relics have been viewed as miraculous, owing to a mysterious substance known as the "Manna of Saint Nicholas," believed by adherents to possess divine properties. In the 11th century, an expedition from Bari, Italy, embarked to retrieve the saint's remains. His body was relocated to Bari, enshrined within the crypt of the Basilica erected in his honor, which remains a locus of veneration for devotees.

 

The Tales of Saint Nicholas

Among the most renowned anecdotes surrounding St. Nicholas is the tale of three impoverished maidens facing the prospect of spinsterhood due to lack of dowry. St. Nicholas clandestinely intervened by bestowing bags of coinage through their dwelling's aperture for three consecutive nights, facilitating their nuptials and averting destitution. For this act of philanthropy, he is revered as the Patron of maidens seeking matrimony.

Another saga recounts St. Nicholas's miraculous intervention during a tempest at sea. As the saint voyaged toward the Holy Land aboard a vessel, a tempestuous squall imperiled the craft. Through the potency of his supplication, St. Nicholas quelled the tumultuous waves, sparing the crew from imminent peril. Henceforth, the saint is invoked by mariners in distress as their guardian and harbinger of safety amidst treacherous maritime voyages.

 

The Adoration of St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas is commemorated on May 7th, 8th, and 9th in Bari, commemorating the transfer of his relics, and on December 6th, a day marked by the bestowal of confections and presents upon children.

Within the Russian Orthodox Church, St. Nicholas commands extraordinary veneration, often depicted as the tertiary figure on the iconostasis, following Christ and the Madonna with Child.

In the Netherlands, the winter celebration of St. Nicholas, known as "Sint Nikolaas" or "Sinteklaas" in Dutch, is deeply entrenched, observed on December 6th. During this festivity, children receive gifts and sweets, preserving the age-old custom associated with St. Nicholas.

The veneration of St. Nicholas has transcended national boundaries, influencing diverse cultures and traditions globally. Dutch colonists introduced the reverence for St. Nicholas to New York, where the North American legend of Santa Claus, also recognized in Italy as Babbo Natale, took root. This attests to the enduring significance and widespread impact of St. Nicholas in global cultural consciousness.

The figure of St. Nicholas continues to wield profound spiritual and cultural sway in the Christian sphere, evident in his widespread veneration and the proliferation of churches and shrines erected in his honor.

Back to blog

Welcome to St. Peter's Square

Find out more about our store in St. Peter's Square, watch our video made on Sunday 7 August 2022.
A big thank to our customers who have agreed to be filmed, we truly appreciate it.