Contact: Christopher Heffron
800-488-0488, ext. 209

November 15, 2002  394 Words

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:

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.

An Web Site from the Franciscans and
Franciscan Media     ©1996-2016 Copyright