Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini


Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini

Dear to the hearts of American Catholics in many regions of the United States, Saint Frances Cabrini, foundress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, patroness of immigrants, was the first citizen of the United States to be canonized.

Born in Lombardy, Italy, the youngest of thirteen children, she was fired with missionary zeal as a little girl, through family reading of the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith.

She gave up sweets because she would also be without them in China, where she aspired to go.

She earned a teacher’s certificate and applied to two Orders having missionary houses, but was rejected for reasons of health.

Reluctantly, at the request of her bishop, she tried to save an orphanage and make of its staff a religious community, but after six hard years the work collapsed. And Frances, by then thirty years old, initiated her own missionary community with seven of her associates from the orphanage.

Bishop Scalabrini suggested they work with Italian immigrants, especially in the United States, as the Congregation of Saint Charles which he had founded was doing; but Mother Cabrini’s heart was set on China.

She asked counsel of Pope Leo XIII.

Go not to the East, he told her, but to the West.

Founding schools, hospitals and charitable works of every kind, she would cross the ocean thirty times, bringing bands of young Italian Sisters to North and South America.

Her amusing community letter, during her second trip to New York, gives a typical picture of these missionary voyages: This morning all the Sisters woke up very ill. Some of them thought they were going to die… Those who trusted my words rose and tried to eat, and presently were looking quite well. The others who thought death was at hand stayed in their rooms awaiting it…

Her letters are filled with the practical motherly instruction of a foundress who knew she was loved and imitated by her Sisters.

When you are corrected do not justify yourself. Remain silent and practice virtue, whether you are right or wrong, otherwise we may dream of perfection but will never attain it. (Oct. 17-20, 1892)

Love is not loved, my daughters! Love is not loved! (Aug. 21, 1890)

Renounce yourselves entirely if you wish to enjoy peace… She who is not holy will make no one holy. (Oct. 17, 1892)

Explaining why she did not accompany some Sisters on a boat excursion she wrote, I admit my weakness, I am afraid of the sea. And if there is no very holy motive in view, I have no courage to go where I fear danger, unless sent by obedience. For then, of course, one’s movements are blessed by God.

Mother Cabrini died at sixty-seven, suddenly and alone in one of her Chicago hospitals, while preparing Christmas presents for 500 children.

(SOURCE: Lives of the Saints: Daily Readings, by Augustine Kalberer, O.S.B. (Franciscan Herald Press: Chicago, 1975).)



Bl. Giulia Nemesia Valle

         Giulia is the name chosen by her parents Anselmo Valle and Cristina Dalbar. She was born in Aosta on the 26th June 1847 and was baptised on the same day in the ancient collegiate church of Saint Orso.

She spends the first years of her life within a happy family who rejoices at the birth of another child – Vincent – and where the parents’ work who run a milliner’s shop and a solid commercial activity respectively assures a certain welfare.

But the mother dies when Giulia is still four.

The two orphans are thus entrusted first to the care of the paternal relatives in Aosta and later to the maternal ones in Donnas.

Here they find a calm environment The school, catechism and the preparation for the sacraments take place at home under the guide of a priest who happens to be a family friend.

When Giulia is eleven, she is sent to France in Besançon, in a boarding school run by the Sisters of Charity where she could continue her schooling.

Her separation from the family costs her a new suffering, a new experience of solitude directing her towards a deep friendship with “the Lord who keeps her mother with Him”.

In Besançon she learns French thoroughly, enriches her culture and becomes skilful in housework. Her delicate goodness matures and it renders her loveable and attentive towards the others.

Five years later, Giulia returns to her valley, but her house at Donnas is no longer there. Her father got married again and moved to Pont Saint Martin. Here the familiar situation is strained and living together is not so easy.

Her brother Vincent cannot stand her: he goes away alone without receiving any more news from him….Giulia remains, and out of her solitude crops up the stimulus to seek what her family couldn’t provide for her, to look after those who experiment her same sorrowful event and find out ways and means that express friendship, understanding, kindness and goodness for everyone.

In that period, the sisters of Charity came to settle at Pont Saint Martin. In them, Giulia rediscovers her teachers of Besançon, the daughters of Saint Jeanne-Antide Thouret who give her help and encouragement.

She observes the life-style that they offer to God and to the others and chooses to become one of them.

When her fathers presents her the suggestion of a prosperous marriage, Giulia doesn’t hesitate: she has promised her life totally to God : she only desires to become a Sister of Charity.

On the 8th September 1866 her father accompanies her to the Monastery of Santa Margherita in Vercelli where the Sisters of Charity run a noviciate.

A new, peaceful and joyful life starts for her in spite of the suffering separation. It’s now a matter of building a deeper relationship with God, of knowing herself and the mission of the community in order to accomplish God’s will. Giulia starts joyfully her new journey.

Every day she discovers what she must lose or acquire: “Jesus strip me of myself, let me be wrapped in you. Jesus I live for you, and I die for you…” is the prayer that already accompanies and will continue to accompany her during her lifetime.

At the end of the noviciate, together with the new habit she receives a new mane: Sr. Nemesia.

It’s the name of one of the earliest martyrs of the church.

She is happy with the name and makes out of it a life’s program : to witness at all costs, totally and for ever her love for Jesus.

She is sent to Tortona, in St. Vincent’s Institute where she finds several activities: an elementary school, cultural courses, a boarding school and an orphanage.

She teaches both in the elementary school and French in the higher classes.

That’s the favourable ground where she can sow kindness.

Sr. Nemesia is present where humble work is to be done, where there is pain to be relieved, where apprehension hinders good relationships, where fatigue, pain and poverty put limits to life.

A voice immediately spreads within the institute and in the city: “Oh, the heart of Sr. Nemesia!”

Everyone is convinced to have a particular place in this heart that knew no boundaries: Sisters, orphans, pupils, families, poor, the clergy of the nearby seminary, young soldiers of the numerous barracks of Tortona turn to her and seek her as if she were the only Sister present in the house.

When she is nominated superior of the community at the age of forty, Sr. Nemesia feels perplexed, but she remembers that : to be a superior means “to serve”, and therefore she can give herself without any limits.

Thus she humbly faces the ascent.

The traces the main contents of her programme: “Keep a quick pace, without looking behind and concentrate on the one goal : God Alone ! To Him the glory, to the others joy, for me to pay the price, never make others suffer. I shall be very strict with myself and full of charity towards the others : love gratuitously offered is the only thing that remains.”

Her charity has no limits. In Tortona she is called “our angel”.

In the morning of the 10th of May 1903, , the orphans and the boarders find a message addressed to them from Sr. Nemesia: “I am leaving happily, I entrust to our Lady… I shall follow you in every moment of the day”.

She left alone at 4 o’clock in the morning, after 36 years…

In Borgaro, a small country in the vicinity of Turin, there is a small group of young girls waiting to be accompanied along a new path, towards the total self-gift to God and to serve him later in the poor…

They are the novices of the new province of the Sisters of Charity…

The method of her formation remains always the same : that of kindness, understanding that educates to renouncement out of love, patience that knows how to wait and how to find the correct way that is convenient to everyone.

Her novices recall : “She knew each one of us, she understood our needs, she treated us according to our characters and she asked

The character of the Provincial Superior which “was perfectly opposite to hers”, disagreed with her method. She was in favour of a rigid, strong and immediate method. Such a difference in their points of view caused relevant contrasts which found their expression in reproaches and humiliations.

Sister Nemesia accepted everything in silence, smiling as she went ahead, without hurrying and without neglecting her responsibilities: “From one station to the other, let us continue our way in the desert…and if the desert is deaf, your Creator is always listening…”

Sr. Nemesia’s path nears the end.

Already thirteen years have passed since her arrival in Borgaro.

About five hundred novices have learnt from her how to walk on the paths traced by God.

She has given everything : now the Lord asks her to “hand over” to others even “her noviciate”.

The prayer that has become hers since the beginning: “Jesus strip me of myself, let me be wrapped in You” has accompanied her throughout her life.

Now she can say “I don’t exist any more”.

She has given up everything.

It’s the perfect offering of an existence fully offered to Love.

Sr. Nemesia dies on the 18th December 1916.
(SOURCE :  Libreria Editrice Vaticana )



Saint Olympia of Constantinople

Widow and Deaconess
(† 440)

Saint Olympia, the glory of the widows in the Eastern Church, was born of a noble and illustrious family.

Left an orphan at a tender age, she was brought up by Theodosia, sister of Saint Amphilochius, a virtuous and prudent woman.

At the age of eighteen, Olympias was regarded as a model of Christian virtues. It was then that she was married to Nebridius, a young man worthy of her; the new spouses promised one another to live in perfect continence.

After less than two years of this angelic union, Nebridius went to receive in heaven the reward of his virtues.

The Emperor would have engaged her in a second marriage, but she replied: If God had destined me to live in the married state, He would not have taken my first spouse. The event which has broken my bonds shows me the way Providence has traced for me.

She had resolved to consecrate her life to prayer and penance, and to devote her fortune to the poor.

She liberated all her slaves, who nonetheless wished to continue to serve her, and she administered her fortune as a trustee for the poor.

The farthest cities, islands, deserts and poor churches found themselves blessed through her liberality.

Nectarius, Archbishop of Constantinople, had a high esteem for the saintly widow and made her a deaconess of his church.

The duties of deaconesses were to prepare the altar linens and instruct the catechumens of their sex; they aided the priests in works of charity, and they made a vow of perpetual chastity.

When Saint John Chrysostom succeeded Nectarius, he had for Olympias no less respect than his predecessor, and through her aid he built a hospital for the sick and refuges for the elderly and orphans.

When he was exiled in the year 404, he continued to encourage her in her good works by his letters, and she assisted him to ransom some of his fellow captives.

Saint Olympia, as one of his supporters, was persecuted.

When she refused to deal with the usurper of the episcopal see, she was mistreated and calumniated, and her goods were sold at a public auction.

Finally she, too, was banished with the entire community of nuns which she governed in Constantinople.

Her illnesses added to her sufferings, but she never ceased her good works until her death in the year 410.

She outlived the exiled Patriarch by about two or three years.

(SOURCE: The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Principal Saints, by Rev. Alban Butler (Metropolitan Press: Baltimore, 1845), October-December, Vol. IV)


Blessed John the Discalced

Franciscan Friar

Blessed John the Discalced
Blessed John the Discalced

Blessed John the Discalced was born near Quimper in France. In his youth he was a laborer; he made and erected crosses, built bridges and arches.

Works useful for the glory of God or the welfare of his neighbor were the ones most agreeable to him.

However, God was calling him higher, and by perseverance he succeeded in studying to receive the priesthood, despite the opposition and mockery of an artisan from whom he had learned his trade, one of his relatives.

From that moment on his life was very austere; he fasted three times a week on bread and water, visited the poor and the sick, and became the object of universal veneration.

For thirteen years he served as a parish priest in his diocese, and never did he take a horse for his parish visits, but walked barefoot; hence his name, the Discalced or unshod.

His very frugal life might have permitted him to set money aside, but the indigent received all that was not strictly necessary for him, and sometimes that as well.

The holy priest then entered the Order of Saint Francis. In the monastery at Quimper, Brother John was soon recognized to be the most humble and most mortified of all.

The spirit of poverty made him choose the most worn habits, which he repaired himself.

Since he had nothing to give away, he begged from the wealthy and thus assisted the miserable.

He rose every night before the others, and very often spent entire nights in the charms of mental prayer.

The devil sometimes waged a fierce war on him, but the holy religious, trusting in God, manifested his contempt for the tempter, calling him dog, and driving him away by words of distress and supplication from the Psalms.

His mortification was extreme; he fasted unceasingly on bread and water save for forty days during the year, and for sixteen years touched no meat or wine.

He had the gift of tears in his ministry of confession, and the spirit of prophecy which revealed to him future public chastisements.

He foresaw and announced the siege and capture of Quimper before the intention had been formed in the mind of the assailants.

Great cruelties accompanied it, and a famine followed.

He also foresaw the pestilence which would afflict it in 1349, and wept.

When the other religious asked him what was wrong, he told them only that the city would be afflicted again with a new calamity.

He devoted himself to serving the plague-stricken, offered his life to God in sacrifice, and died of the terrible scourge in that year, at the age of sixty-nine.

The city remains devoted to his memory, and his statue is in its cathedral.

(SOURCE: Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l’année, by Abbé L. Jaud (Mame: Tours, 1950); Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 14)


Blessed Melanie Calvat

Seeress of La Salette, Virgin

Blessed Melanie Calvat

Born on November 7, 1831, in Corps, France, Françoise Melanie Calvat was the fourth of ten children born to Pierre Calvat, an honest stonemason and sawyer, and Julie Barnaud, a lightheaded woman who disgracefully mistreated Melanie.

Put out of the house at the age of three, the little girl took refuge in the woods, where a beautiful little Child (the Child Jesus) visited her, calling her the sister of My Heart. He consoled and instructed her, and was her only friend throughout her childhood. At the age of three, she was stigmatized and favored with the vision of Our Lady, who promised to watch over her as Mother and Mistress.

The occupation of shepherdess was imposed upon her at the tender age of six, and Melanie suffered much affliction with love and patience. 1846 found her, now fourteen years old, watching her master’s cows in La Salette, located a few kilometers from Corps.

This is where the Mother of God chose to appear to her and to Maximin Giraud to transmit Her Message.

After the Apparition, the two children were placed as boarders in the Sisters of Providence convent in Corps, where an inquiry concerning the Apparition took place.

The life of Melanie was not a tranquil one. She entered religion in her native village of Corps at the age of twenty, but was soon exiled from France by her bishop, who arranged for her to be accompanied to Darlington, England by an English prelate.

There she was sequestered in a Carmel for several years, until released from its vow of cloister by the Holy Father Pius IX, that she might be free to accomplish her mission. Melanie was able to publish the Secret, as the Virgin had commanded, only in 1872 and 1873, in Italy, with an Imprimatur of Cardinal Sforza, Archbishop of Naples, and with the approbation of Pope Pius IX.

When she completed the Secret by adding an account of the Apparition from beginning to end in 1878, Pope Leon XIII, reading her narration, said, This document must be published. Included in it is the urgent appeal of Our Lady, summoning the Apostles of the Latter Times, who will have lived in contempt of the world and themselves, in silence, prayer and mortification, in chastity and union with God, in suffering and unknown to the world. She calls them to come forth, to combat, in these days of woe.

The brochure was again printed in 1879, with the Imprimatur of Monsignor Zola, bishop of Lecce near Naples, who had protected and assisted Melanie in his diocese.

Her life was one of constant miraculous help from Heaven amid unceasing contradictions; her soul, hidden behind a very modest exterior which only the holy consecrated souls of her time could penetrate, was one of beautiful innocence and of a sanctity far from ordinary.

The bishops of France resisted the Secret with, at times, a real fury, because its warnings as to the political ambitions of Napoleon III and the regrettable state of the clergy in general, were not to their liking. Melanie was called insane, she was calumniated, refused possession of a terrain in France willed legally to the Order of the Mother of God which she represented; refused Holy Communion at times; she was exiled from certain dioceses when she returned from Italy for a few years.

Eventually, after prolonged efforts to establish the Order of the Mother of God both in Italy and in France, she again went to Italy, where she died in 1904.

She had foretold: The spirit of La Salette can be transported.

And when the hour has sounded, the Blessed Virgin will be able to resurrect La Salette and accomplish Her Work… The Blessed Virgin’s words are not sterile like those of men… Her Work will be done. Men and devils can do nothing against Her. She will triumph. Men can resist the call of grace and Her appeal, but She can transport Her great light and show it to others. Let us await Her help and Her hour.

(SOURCE: The Prophecy of the Apostles of the Latter Times, by Jean-Marie Barette (Magnificat: St. Jovite, 1988); Magnificat magazine (Magnificat: St. Jovite) Vol. XXIV, Nos. 4-5, April-May 1989, An Unrecognized Saint: Melanie of La Salette)



Saint Spyridon, Bishop of Trimythous

(c. 270 – 348)


Spyridon was born in Askeia, in Cyprus.

He worked as a shepherd and was known for his great piety.

He married and had one daughter, Irene.

Upon the death of his wife, Spyridon entered a monastery, and their daughter, a convent.

Spyridon eventually became Bishop of Trimythous, or Tremithous (today called Tremetousia), in the district of Larnaca.

He took part in the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325), where he was instrumental in countering the theological arguments of Arius and his followers.

He reportedly converted a pagan philosopher to Christianity by using a potsherd to illustrate how one single entity (a piece of pottery) could be composed of three unique entities (fire, water and clay); a metaphor for the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

As soon as Spyridon finished speaking, the shard is said to have miraculously burst into flame, water dripped on the ground, and only dust remained in his hand (other accounts of this event say that it was a brick he held in his hand).

After the council, Saint Spiridon returned to his diocese in Tremithous.

He later fell into disfavor during the persecutions of the emperor Maximinus, but died peacefully in old age.

His biography was recorded by the hagiographer Simeon Metaphrastes and the church historians, Sozomen and Socrates Scholasticus.

Spyridon is the patron saint of potters (from the purported miracle of the potsherd) and the island of Corfu where he is called: “Αγιος Σπυρίδων ο πολιούχος”, “Saint Spyridon, the Keeper of the City” for the miracle of expelling the plague (πανώλη) from the island.

St. Spyridon is also believed to have saved the island at the second great siege of Corfu which took place in 1716. At that time the Turkish army and naval force led by the great Sultan Achmet III appeared in Butrinto opposite Corfu.

On July 8 the Turkish fleet carrying 33,000 men sailed to Corfu from Butrinto and established a beachhead in Ipsos.

The same day the Venetian fleet encountered the Turkish fleet off the channel of Corfu and defeated it in the ensuing naval battle.

On July 19 the Turkish army reached the hills of the town and laid siege to the city.

After repeated failed attempts and heavy fighting, the Turks were forced to raise the siege which had lasted 22 days.

There were also rumours spreading among the Turks that some of their soldiers saw St. Spyridon as a monk threatening them with a lit torch and that helped increase their panic.

This victory over the Ottomans, therefore, was attributed not only to the leadership of Count Schulenburg who commanded the stubborn defence of the island against the Ottomas but also to the miraculous intervention of St. Spyridon.

After the victorious outcome of the battle, Venice honoured Schulenburg and the Corfiotes for successfully defending the island.
The great composer Vivaldi was commissioned to write an opera, Juditha triumphans, in celebration of the victory.

The Truth behind Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus….


St. Nicholas of Bari († 342)

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.
(SOURCE: Lives of the Saints, by Alban Butler, Benziger Bros. ed. [1894])

But what of the “Myth” of Santa Claus and how he developed from Saint Nicholas…?

Well….let me tell you…

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara.

At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey.

His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering.

He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers.

After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325.

He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th (December 19 on the Julian Calendar).

Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.

One story tells of a poor man with three daughters.

In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry.

The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband.

Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry.

This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery.

Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries.

The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry.

This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas.

Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold.

That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas.

And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.

One of the oldest stories showing St. Nicholas as a protector of children takes place long after his death.

The townspeople of Myra were celebrating the good saint on the eve of his feast day when a band of Arab pirates from Crete came into the district.

They stole treasures from the Church of Saint Nicholas to take away as booty.

As they were leaving town, they snatched a young boy, Basilios, to make into a slave.

The emir, or ruler, selected Basilios to be his personal cupbearer, as not knowing the language, Basilios would not understand what the king said to those around him.

So, for the next year Basilios waited on the king, bringing his wine in a beautiful golden cup.

For Basilios’ parents, devastated at the loss of their only child, the year passed slowly, filled with grief.

As the next St. Nicholas’ feast day approached, Basilios’ mother would not join in the festivity, as it was now a day of tragedy. However, she was persuaded to have a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios’ safekeeping.

Meanwhile, as Basilios was fulfilling his tasks serving the emir, he was suddenly whisked up and away. St. Nicholas appeared to the terrified boy, blessed him, and set him down at his home back in Myra.

Imagine the joy and wonderment when Basilios amazingly appeared before his parents, still holding the king’s golden cup.

This is the first story told of St. Nicholas protecting children—which became his primary role in the West.

Another story tells of three theological students, traveling on their way to study in Athens.

A wicked innkeeper robbed and murdered them, hiding their remains in a large pickling tub.

It so happened that Bishop Nicholas, traveling along the same route, stopped at this very inn.

In the night he dreamed of the crime, got up, and summoned the innkeeper.

As Nicholas prayed earnestly to God the three boys were restored to life and wholeness.

In France the story is told of three small children, wandering in their play until lost, lured, and captured by an evil butcher.

St. Nicholas appears and appeals to God to return them to life and to their families.

And so St. Nicholas is the patron and protector of children.

Several stories tell of Nicholas and the sea.

When he was young, Nicholas sought the holy by making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

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.

Other stories tell of Nicholas saving his people from famine, sparing the lives of those innocently accused, and much more.

He did many kind and generous deeds in secret, expecting nothing in return.

Within a century of his death he was celebrated as a saint.

Today he is venerated in the East as wonder, or miracle worker and in the West as patron of a great variety of persons-children, mariners, bankers, pawn-brokers, scholars, orphans, laborers, travelers, merchants, judges, paupers, marriageable maidens, students, children, sailors, victims of judicial mistakes, captives, perfumers, even thieves and murderers!

He is known as the friend and protector of all in trouble or need

Sailors, claiming St. Nicholas as patron, carried stories of his favor and protection far and wide.

St. Nicholas chapels were built in many seaports.

As his popularity spread during the Middle Ages, he became the patron saint of Apulia (Italy), Sicily, Greece, and Lorraine(France), and many cities in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Following his baptism, Grand Prince Vladimir I brought St. Nicholas’ stories and devotion to St. Nicholas to his homeland where Nicholas became the most beloved saint.

Nicholas was so widely revered that thousands of churches were named for him, including three hundred in Belgium, thirty-four in Rome, twenty-three in the Netherlands and more than four hundred in England.

Nicholas’ tomb in Myra became a popular place of pilgrimage.

Because of the many wars and attacks in the region, some Christians were concerned that access to the tomb might become difficult.

For both the religious and commercial advantages of a major pilgrimage site, the Italian cities of Venice and Bari vied to get the Nicholas relics.

In the spring of 1087, sailors from Bari succeeded in spiriting away the bones, bringing them to Bari, a seaport on the southeast coast of Italy.

An impressive church was built over St. Nicholas’ crypt and many faithful journeyed to honor the saint who had rescued children, prisoners, sailors, famine victims, and many others through his compassion, generosity, and the countless miracles attributed to his intercession.

The Nicholas shrine in Bari was one of medieval Europe’s great pilgrimage centers and Nicholas became known as “Saint in Bari.”

To this day pilgrims and tourists visit Bari’s great Basilica di San Nicola.

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.

Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas’ feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity.

In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor—and sometimes for themselves!

In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrived on a steamship from Spain to ride a white horse on his gift-giving rounds.

December 6th is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe.

For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles.

Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint’s horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts.

Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child.

(SOURCE: The Saint Nicholas Center, Holland, MI • USA)