St. Nicholas of Myra: A Far Cry From the Shopping-Mall Santa
CINCINNATI—With his rounded belly, red nose
and jovial laugh, Santa Claus has become, for many, a quintessential symbol
of the Christmas season. This jolly gift-bearer is so much a part of our holiday
psyche that it’s become impossible to walk through a mall in December or flip
through a holiday catalogue without seeing his smile. But for many Christians,
Santa’s precursor, St. Nicholas of Myra, remains a far more relevant figure.
The life and legacy of St. Nicholas, patron saint of
sailors, children and women in search of husbands, are featured in the December
issue of St. Anthony Messenger. Author and Assistant Editor John Bookser
Feister interviewed Father Nicholas Palis, an authority on saints, about St.
Nicholas’s lasting influence over Christians, particularly Eastern Catholics
and the Orthodox. After November 26, the article will be found at: AmericanCatholic.org.
St. Nicholas was born in the seaport of Myra in 280.
Born to wealthy parents but orphaned as a child, Nicholas sought to assist those
in need. A popular story from his life involves three teenage daughters of a
poor man Nicholas knew. Without a dowry, the three daughters would never marry
and thus would turn to prostitution. Nicholas, wishing to remain anonymous,
threw bags of gold through the family’s window, ensuring a better life for the
three young women. But the father eventually discovered the identity of their
benefactor and the story got out.
Another story that has survived is Nicholas’s interventions
with sailors in times of distress. Nicholas crossed the sea on a pilgrimage
to the Holy Land. A great storm came up and the sailors all faced death. They
pleaded for Nicholas’s help. He prayed and the seas calmed. The sailors stood
in amazement and praised God.
Father Nicholas Palis believes Nicholas was a “Godly bishop who has a strong
zeal for his people.” Even the name Nicholas is a reflection of this
great saint. Niki means “victory” and laos means “people.” Thus,
Nicholas means one who is victorious with the people. Father Palis explains
it further, “He’s victorious…through his saintly life. I think St. Nicholas
always moves people to imitate his virtues of charity, love and zeal.”
Permission is granted to reprint this release.