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Who Was St. Nicholas, and Did He Bring Children Gifts?

Is it even Christmas if someone doesn’t pause to ask, “Wait, who was St. Nick?”

As is common, legends outweigh historically known facts. Here’s what we do know about St. Nicholas and why some of our Christmas traditions are tied to his name.

About St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas has always been one of the more popular saints of the Church. Nonetheless, the only certain fact we know of his life is that he was Bishop of Myra in ancient Lycia (now modern Dembre in Turkey), during the first half of the fourth century.

Tradition has it that he was born in Patara in Lycia, in about 270, and that he died on December 6, between 345 and 352. Justinian I (emperor 526–65) built a church in his honor during the early sixth century. In 1087, Italian soldiers stole the saint’s body from Myra and transported it by sea to Bari, and the saint’s cult then spread quickly throughout Italy and the rest of Europe.

Numerous legends arose about his liberality, the most famous being his secretly providing dowries for three poor girls. Thus, he is often depicted with three bags of gold. Because of this legend, St. Nicholas became, in Europe, the secret bringer of presents to children on the eve of his feast. In English-speaking countries, his name has become corrupted into Santa Claus, the bringer of gifts to children on Christmas Eve.1

Patron saint of sailors, children, and Russia

St. Nicholas is regarded as the patron saint of sailors, and churches under his dedication are often built so that they can be seen off the coast as landmarks. He is also the patron saint of children, bringing them gifts on December 6 (whence “Santa Claus,” an American corruption of “Sante Klaas,” the Dutch for “Saint Nicholas”). He is also the patron saint of Russia. His Feast day is December 6.2

St. Nicholas in art

Fra Angelico did a marvelous series of paintings based on his life:

 

 

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Advent is a joyful season when we both remember Christ’s first coming and prepare for his return.

And it’s the perfect time to deepen your spiritual study.

So throughout December, we’re welcoming this beloved season with 40% off more than 15 study resources—including three brand-new Doctors of the Church bundles: [Read more…]

Unto us a Savior is born

Merry Christmas!

It is the most joyful news we can receive—our Creator has become one of us! In all of our scrambling for the perfect gift, we should remember that, no matter what, the perfect Christmas gift comes to us every year. Jesus Christ becomes one of us so that we can partake in his divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), and so we can truly learn what it means to be human.

The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.
(Gaudium et Spes 22)

Merry Christmas!

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, so that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9)

Free Advent and Christmas Sermons!

Deepen your spiritual life with Sermons of St. Bernard on Advent and Christmas, free this month. St. Bernard of Clairvaux is a doctor of the church and speaks with wisdom and insight about the scriptures leading up to Christmas:

It is now fitting that we should consider the time of our Lord’s coming.
He came, as you know, not in the beginning, nor in the midst of time, but in the end of it. This was no unsuitable choice, but a truly wise dispensation of His infinite wisdom, that He might afford help when He saw it was most needed. Truly, “it was evening, and the day was far spent”(Lk 24:29); the sun of justice had wellnigh set, and but a faint ray of his light and heat remained on earth. The light of Divine knowledge was very small, and as iniquity abounded, the fervour of charity had grown cold. No angel appeared, no prophet spoke. The angelic vision and the prophetic spirit alike had passed away, both hopelessly baffled by the exceeding obduracy and obstinacy of mankind. Then it was that the Son of God said: “Behold, I come”(He 10:7). And “while all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, the almighty word leaped down from heaven from thy royal throne” (Wi 18:14,15). Of this coming the Apostle speaks: “When the fullness of time was come, God sent his Son” (Ga 4:4) (Sermons 11-12).

st bernard

You can also add St. Bernard’s On Consideration for 0.99.

This offer ends December 1st–download your free book today!

 

 

Merry Christmas from Verbum!

We at Verbum wish all of our software users a very Merry Christmas! This is a picture of our team at our department retreat in November at the Archbisop Brunett Retreat Center in Federal Way, Washington.

May all the blessings of the season be yours!

department photo 2

 

Anne Catherine Emmerich on Joseph’s Search for Lodging

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich’s mysterious visions have been a subject of ongoing discussion in the Catholic Church. When she was beatified in 2004 by Pope John Paul II, the authenticity of the transcriptions of her visions was thoroughly investigated. Interestingly, her beatification was based on grounds completely apart from the writings associated with her.

These visions have continued to fascinate believers for generations—even the 2003 film The Passion of the Christ was inspired by Emmerich’s vivid visions of Jesus’ crucifixion. We may never be able to prove or disprove these private revelations to Emmerich, but one thing is certain: these accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion and Mary’s life  will draw you you to a closer devotion to the Holy family.

JOSEPH IN VAIN SEEKS FOR A LODGING.—THEY GO TO THE GROTTO OF THE CRIB

THEY then entered into Bethlehem, in which the houses were separated from each other by considerable spaces. They entered across some rubbish and by a gate which was fallen into decay. Mary remained quietly with the ass at the end of the street, and Joseph searched in vain for a lodging in the first houses, for there were many strangers in Bethlehem and many people were running here and there. He returned to Mary and told her that he could find nowhere to lodge there, and that they must go on further into the city. He led the ass by the bridle whilst the Blessed Virgin walked by his side. When they were come to the end of another street Mary remained again near the ass while Joseph went from house to house without being able to find one where they would receive him. He soon returned very much troubled. This was repeated several times, and sometimes the Blessed Virgin had a long time to wait: everywhere the place was taken up, everywhere he was repulsed, and he ended by telling Mary that they must go to another part of Bethlehem, where they would be sure to find what they wanted. They then retraced their steps in the direction contrary to that which they had taken in coming when they turned to the south. They then passed through a street which seemed rather a country road as the houses were isolated and on slight elevations.

Arrived at the other side of Bethlehem, where the houses were still more scattered, they found a large empty space situated in a hollow; it was like a deserted field in the city. There was there a kind of shed, and a short distance from it a large tree, like a lime tree, with a smooth trunk, whose branches extended widely and formed a kind of roof over it. Joseph led the Blessed Virgin to this tree; he arranged a convenient seat for her with bundles at the foot of the trunk, in order that she might rest whilst he sought again for a lodging in the neighbouring houses. The ass stood still with its head turned towards the tree. Mary remained at first standing, leaning against the trunk of the tree. Her robe of white wool had no belt, and fell about her in folds; her head was covered with a white veil. Many persons passed by and looked at her, not knowing that their Saviour was so near them. How patient, humble, and resigned she was. She had to wait a long time, and at last she sat down upon the rugs, her hands joined on her breast, and with her head bowed down. Joseph returned to her in great trouble: he had not found a lodging. The friends of whom he had spoken to the Blessed Virgin would scarcely notice him. He shed tears, and Mary consoled him. He went again from house to house; but as, in order the more to induce them to consent, he had spoken of the near approach of his wife’s confinement, this drew upon him a more distinct refusal.

The place was solitary; but in the end some people passing by looked from a distance with curiosity, as is usual if any one is seen remaining a long time in the same place towards the close of the day. I believe that some of them spoke to Mary and asked her who she was. At last Joseph returned; he was so much troubled that he hardly dare come near her. He told her it was of no use, but that he knew further on in the city a spot where the shepherds often stayed when they came to Bethlehem with their flocks, and that they would find there at least a shelter. He knew the place from his youth: when his brothers tormented him he had often retired there to escape from their persecutions. He said if the shepherds came there he could easily arrange with them, but that they were rarely here at this season of the year. He added, when they were quietly settled he would make further inquiries. They then went away by the eastern side of Bethlehem, following a deserted path which turned to the left. It was a road like one which is found in walking by the side of the dilapidated walls, ditches, and fortifications of a small city in ruins. The road at first rose a little, it then descended the slope of a small hill, and led them a few minutes to the east of Bethlehem, before the place they were seeking, near a hill or an old rampart, in front of which stood some trees. They were green trees (firs or cedars), and other trees which had little leaves like box leaves.

Emmerich, A. C. (1899). The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. (G. Richardson, Trans.) (pp. 69–75). London; New York; Cincinnati; Chicago: Burns and Oates; Benziger Brothers.

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