Saturday marks the feast of St. Nicholas. The optional collect for the Mass for the day is an appropriate prayer:
We humbly implore your mercy, Lord:
protect us in all dangers
through the prayers of the Bishop Saint Nicholas,
that the way of salvation may lie open before us.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.”
Also, this short one appears in the book 24 Christmas Stories for Little Ones: “O good Saint Nicholas, patron saint of little children, help us to be generous of heart.”
To pause to contemplate the life of this great saint, Fr. Roger Landyr offers this reflection:
St. Nicholas was born in the town of Patara in the Roman Province of Asia, which is now southern Turkey. He grew up in the faith, formed in a good Christian home. After his parents both died when he was young, he looked to sow his life for the Gospel. Before he would enter training to become a priest and then later would become the Bishop of Myra (modern day Demre, Turkey), he would already be giving what he had for others. There’s the famous story of his help for a poor family in Patara when he was still a layman. The culture of the time looked at women as burdens of the men who were responsible for them. In order for a girl to marry, the father had to provide her with a dowry so that her new husband would be able to pay for her upkeep, at least for some period of time. Families without money for a dowry often couldn’t get their daughters married. One poor father didn’t know what to do for his three daughters for whom there was a danger, if he were to die or be incapable of work, that they would be driven or drawn into prostitution for survival. Nicholas heard of the family’s situation and one night threw a bag of cold coins through the family’s open window, enough for the dowry for the oldest daughter who was soon married. A short time later, Nicholas threw in another bag, sufficient for the dowry of the middle daughter, who likewise was married. Months later Nicholas tossed a third bag to help marry the third daughter of the father, who was waiting this time to find out who was the anonymous benefactor. The generosity of Saint Nicholas is continued through the generosity of Santa Claus (a translation of St. Nicholas) every Christmas, when all of us, like St. Nicholas, pay forward the generosity we have received from Christ. It’s unsurprising that someone like St. Nicholas who had compassion on that poor family and sacrificed his inheritance to help them would likewise sow his entire life for Christ and his Gospel, becoming a laborer in his vineyard and continuing the Lord’s work of proclamation, teaching and healing. The Lord is hoping that we will be touched in the same way as Nicholas was from the encounter with Christ who has come into our world, so that we, too, will engage with Christ in … the continuance of the Lord’s compassionate work.
St. Nicholas, pray for us, most especially during this Advent and Christmas season. May we be worthy of the promises of Christ who comes to transform our lives. In the busy-ness of this month, intercede for us so that we might not forget to see the love of God in the gifts and the cheer. God has given us the greatest gift, in Himself.
Only Jesus can quench our thirst, as a Catholics Come Home reminder puts it:
Advent is preparing for the birth of Love. Not a bad way to think about these next weeks!