My colleague Michael La Civita posted this remembrance of a poignant trip to Italy over at CNEWA’s blog, ONE-TO-ONE:
In May 1997, I traveled to Puglia, Italy, to visit my father’s family. While there, I visited Bari, home to the Wonder Worker, good ole St. Nick. Here’s how I concluded an article on that visit, which coincided with another Feast of St. Nicholas, which we celebrate today:
“One Russian family caught my eye. The father watched his youngest child as his wife and daughters, their heads covered in colorful scarves, lit candles, kissed icons, pressed their heads to the sacred images and prostrated themselves before the altar. Although they abstained from the Eucharist, this family and the other Orthodox pilgrims who were in attendance rushed to the iconostasis to receive the blessed bread and to be anointed with the holy myron, or oil, of St. Nicholas.
“The holy myron of St. Nicholas is a clear substance that, according to Byzantine accounts, has oozed from the remains of St. Nicholas since his burial in the early fourth century. Many Barese families still possess the elaborately painted bottles that were blown to hold the sacred oil.
“After the completion of the liturgy I went to the chapel where Nicholas lies buried under a simple stone altar. While the Italians were busy throwing their offerings of lire through an iron gate, my Russian family — who were now joined by other Russian pilgrims — stood near the tomb of their beloved saint and wept.