Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas at Greccio

St. Francis at Greccio
by Terry Nelson
Francis set out again on the roads of Umbria. Again he went up the rugged path along the woodlands of Fonte Colombo and joyously greeted the little church so dear to him. 

The days that followed were among the happiest of his life. Christmas was drawing near. Pleasant weather had returned, and in the cloister formed by the wooded hills, a clear light shone in the joyful, immaculate mornings. Toward evening, the long slow notes of cornemuses rose from the valley, playing ancient pastorals. Tenderly they dwelled on the miraculous dream of the return of the Son of God to earth as a baby, little and poor, clasped to the breast of the Virgin.

Francis wanted everyone to share in the joy of this "feast of feasts." He wanted the poor and the hungry to sit at the tables of the rich and oxen and asses, the humble beasts who had warmed the cold body of the baby Jesus with their breath, to be given more than the usual amount of grain and hay.

"If I could speak to the emperor," he said, "I would ask that a general law be made requiring all who can to scatter corn and other grains along the roads so that the birds might have an abundance of food on such a great and solemn day, especially our sisters the larks."

A few days before Christmas, Francis sent for a noble of Greccio, acastello nearby, a man Giovanni for whom Francis had a very. special love because of his goodness. To him Francis disclosed the plans he had made.

It would be, he said, so good, so edifying, to call to mind the birth of the Christ Child on the night of Christmas, to have "set before our bodily eyes in some way the inconveniences of his infant needs, how he lay in manger, how, with an ox and an ass standing by, he lay upon the hay where he had been placed." His poetic gifts enabled him to give vivid life to the scene. Giovanni was enthralled.

Brothers from nearby Franciscan places were invited. Many torches and candles were needed to make a great light in that night that has lighted up all the days and years with its gleaming star." Men and women worked unceasingly to prepare them. All had been made ready in the forest by Christmas Eve, the Vigil of Christmas: the manger, the hay, the ox and ass. Francis inspected it and was pleased. At last he had found a way to make a living presentation of the concept in which he passionately believed, in a drama that could not fail to stir even the most stolid. The lowly manger would show forth God - small, poor, humble. Greccio would become a new Bethlehem.

Night fell and obscured the dark beech trees, the steep cliffs, the hermitage, the valley. A profound waiting silence lay over the great stage. Then it began to snow, and there was nothing but an immense whiteness in the calm and peaceful night. It seemed that unseen bells were ringing out the ancient invocation: "Peace on earth to men of good will" In the great, white quiet, every petty, malicious, and unworthy feeling died away.

As the hours passed, far-away lights appeared in the valley and began to move up to the hermitage. Again, as once before, shepherds were walking in the night to "come and adore Him."

In reading over the description written by Thomas of Celano, who certainly got his information from someone who was there, we ourselves can see the marvelous scenes.

A thousand torches blaze up in the darkness, joyous moving lights, like the enchanted lights in a festival of fantasy in legends arising from the deeps of a magic forest. And still it is snowing. A whirlwind of flakes dances in the flickering flames of the torches. Great crackling bonfires add their light and voice to the jubilation of flames that shine out on the harsh and lonely mountain. The night, writes Thomas, is "lighted up like the day."

A great throng crowds about the manger, where the ox and the ass bring the ancient miracle to life again. The people, writes Thomas, are "filled with new joy over the mystery."

From the group of kneeling friars arises the mighty chorus: "Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound..." The song rises to the tops of the white oaks on which reflections of the red fires dance; it expands into the invisible sky. It travels to the distant mountains.

Everything proclaims solemnity, beauty, and joy: the priest with the gold chasuble who celebrates the Mass, the altar shining with lights, the brothers in their pure white surplices, the forest ringing with the joyous hymn, the rocks that "make answer to their jubilation." A single harmony unites all things and all creatures - perhaps even the angels who sang on the night that Christ was born are singing again, too, beyond the intense light.

Francis vested as a deacon, sings the beautiful lesson: "She gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger..."

His voice rings out like heavenly music that none of those present could ever forget: "a strong voice, a sweet voice, a clear voice, a sonorous voice." The nobleman Giovanni is so overwhelmed by it that as Francis reads, he sees the baby Jesus "lying in the manger lifeless, and ... the holy man of God go up to it and rouse the child as from a deep sleep."

"This vision was not unfitting," writes the friar, "for the Child Jesus had been forgotten in the hearts of many; but, by the working of his grace, he was brought to life again through His servant Saint Francis and stamped upon their fervent memory.

Then Francis preaches to the people, and "he spoke charming words concerning the nativity of the poor King and the little town 6f Bethlehem." Speaking the word "Bethlehem" (Betlemme) says Thomas, his voice seems to resemble the sound of a lamb.

And the light that shines in the darkness is truly the light of the dawn, the beginning of a new day for all who were there - that light that touches the faces, envelops the motionless plants, reaches into the snow-covered valley and up to the icy heights that still echo with the sound of silvery voices: Rejoice! Rejoice! 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Our Lady of Mental Peace by ~pttobeornottobe on deviantART

O Lady of Mental Peace,
Mother of Tranquility
and Mother of Hope,
look upon me in this time
of my weakness and unrest.

Teach my searching heart
to know that God's Love
for me is unchanging and
unchangeable, and, that
true human love can only
begin and grow by touching
His Love.

Let your gentle Peace -
which this world cannot give
- be always with me.
And, help me to bring this
same Peace into the lives
of others.

Our Lady of Mental Peace,
- Pray for me!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Our Lady of Guadalupe – December 12

Written by Prof. Plinio CorrĂȘa de Oliveira

Our Lady of Guadalupe - Photos from wikipedia

Biographical selection:
These are some of the dialogues between Our Lady and Juan Diego, taken from written narrations inspired by the account of Indian scholar Antonio Valeriano around the middle of the 16th century.

In the first apparition, Our Lady addressed Juan Diego, speaking in the Mexican idiom: “Juanito, my son, the humblest of my children, where are you going?"

"Noble lady, I go to the church in Tlatelolco to listen to such divine matters as our priests teach us," he replied.

She said, “Know for certain, dearest of my sons, that I am the perfect and ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, the Lord of all things and Master of Heaven and Earth. I ardently desire a temple to be built here, where I will show and offer all my love, compassion, help, and protection to the people and those who look for me. I am your merciful Mother, the Mother of all who live in this land and of all mankind. I will hear the weeping and sorrows of those who love me, cry to me, and have confidence in me, and I will give them consolation and relief.

“Therefore, so that my designs might be fulfilled, go to the house of the Bishop of Mexico City and tell him that I sent you, and that it is my desire to have a temple built in this place. Tell him all that you have seen and heard. Be assured that I shall be grateful and will reward you for diligently carrying out what I have asked of you.”

Juan Diego bowed low and said, “My holy one, my Lady, I will go now and do all that you ask of me. Thy humble servant bids thee farewell.”

The second apparition: That same afternoon Juan Diego returned to the hilltop from the Bishop’s palace where he had delivered the message. The Holy Virgin was waiting for him. He told her:

“Noble lady and most loved Mistress, I did what you commanded. Even though it was difficult to be admitted to speak with the Bishop, I saw His Excellency and communicated to him your message. He received me kindly and listened with attention. But when he answered me, it seemed as if he did not believe me. …

“So I beg you, noble Lady, entrust this message to someone of importance, someone well-known and respected, so that they might believe in him. For I am a nobody, a piece of straw, a lowly peasant, and you, my Lady, have sent me to a place where I have no standing. Forgive me if my answer has caused you grief or displeasure, my Lady and my Mistress.”

Above, an enlarged view of the right eye of Our Lady of Guadalupe shows the face and shoulders of a man, who appears to be Juan Diego. Below, a picture of Juan Diego from an early painting.

The third apparition: The Holy Virgin insisted that she wanted Juan Diego to give her message to the Bishop. He did so, and this time the Indian returned to Our Lady saying that the Bishop had asked for a sign to prove that what he said was true.

Our Lady told him: “Very well, my dear little one, return here tomorrow and you will take to the Bishop the sign he has requested. With this he will believe you and no longer doubt you or be suspicious of you. Know, my beloved little one, that I will reward your solicitude, effort and fatigue spent on my behalf. Go now. I will await you here tomorrow.”

The fourth apparition: The next day, instead of going to the hilltop, Juan Diego took a different route that bypassed it to find a priest for his uncle who was gravely ill. Juan Diego was certain that Our Lady would not see him.

But she appeared to him along the road he had taken and asked him: “What is this, my little son? Where are you going?”

Juan Diego answered: “My beloved Lady, God keep you! How are you this morning? Is your health good, my dearest Lady? It will grieve you to hear what I have to say. My uncle, your poor servant, is sick. He has taken the plague and is near death. I am hurrying to your house in Mexico City to call a priest to hear his confession and give him the last rites. When I have done this, I will return here immediately so I may deliver your message. Forgive me, I beg you, my Lady, be patient with me for now. I will not deceive you and tomorrow I will come in all haste.”

She answered: “Listen to what I am going to tell you, my son, and let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that plague or any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, I, who am your mother? Are you not under my protection and care? Am I not your life and health? Are you not in the folds of my mantle and the embrace of my arms? What else do you need? Do not be grieved or disturbed by anything.”

She then told him that he should not worry about the sickness of his uncle, for he would not die at this time and that, in fact, he was already cured.

Calling herself Holy Mary of Guadalupe, she told Juan Diego to go up the nearby hilltop where he would find flowers aplenty, even though it was winter. He found Castilian roses and gathered many and placed them in his tilma, a long cloak used by Mexican Indians. He came back to the Virgin, who rearranged them and commanded him to go to the Bishop without opening it until he was in the Prelate’s presence.

After a long wait and much difficulty getting past the servants of the palace, Juan Diego finally stood before the Bishop. He unfolded his tilma, and the roses fell out. The Bishop and his attendants fell on his knees before him, for a life-size figure of the Holy Virgin was printed on the poor tilma of Juan Diego. It was December 12, 1531.

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

There are many aspects of these apparitions that have often been the subject of commentaries: that Our Lady chooses simple and pure souls to speak to mankind, that she is pleased to appear to humble peasants, that she challenges the human respect of her emissaries, etc. I think that these are good points, but they have already been stressed.

The tilma in the Cathedral of Mexico City
An aspect that receives less attention that I believe is very interesting is the attitude of the Indian Juan Diego before Our Lady and the language he used to address her. His manner and language have an extraordinary tonus that corresponds to Our Lady’s attitude toward him from the beginning of the apparition. Our Lady treated him as a dearly loved son, with an extraordinary kindness, as if he were a child.

There is a marvelous contrast we can see in the general conduct of Our Lady. On one hand, there is the love she has for great souls, the heroic souls who accomplish great things in the lives of peoples and civilizations; on the other hand there is the love she has for small, simple souls entirely turned toward her and forgetful of their own virtue. It is marvelous to see how she speaks to these small souls with love and a particularly touching tenderness.

The attitude of Juan Diego is also interesting. He is a simple man, without any education, but in his simplicity he addresses Our Lady as a truly courteous man. He greets her, he inquires about her well being, he describes how he executed the mission he received as if he were a real diplomat, and he explains to Our Lady the practical cause for his failure.

He had presented himself in the Bishop’s palace to transmit the message of Our Lady and was treated disdainfully by the servants and valets of the palace. So he reasoned thus: If I were a noble and powerful man, I would be well received and my message would have more credibility.

He thought he was doing a good thing by giving this counsel to Our Lady: You should choose someone important to deliver your message; then the Bishop will receive him well and everything will go as you have asked. One sees in him the humble desire to not appear or shine and also, to a certain measure, his desire to avoid trouble. So in his charming simplicity he gave her that advice.

Juan Diego showed diplomacy and courtesy
There are many qualities in this response, but here I want to stress his tact. He gives her a fine diplomatic counsel to resolve the situation. He also closes his suggestion in a courteous way: My Lady, I beg you not to be displeased with me. It was not my intention to anger or irritate you.

That is to say, he found a good way to excuse himself while presenting his suggestion. He is a simple peasant, but we can see a certain nobility in this attitude. One can also see that Our Lady liked the way he presented his idea. She probably smiled kindly at his diplomatic advice, but she did not accept it. On the contrary, she asked that he return to speak with the Bishop.

It seems that Juan Diego was willing, but found that he needed to postpone the task. His uncle was sick and seemed close to death, so he went to find a priest for him. He thought that Our Lady could wait until the next day. But she caught him on the different route he took to avoid her. Then she not only cured his uncle, but worked the miracle the Bishop had demanded. So finally, with that miracle, the apparition of Our Lady was approved by the Bishop.

There is a lesson for us in this episode: Wherever true virtue exists, courtesy and noble manners develop as a consequence of it. The opposite is also true: When virtue is no longer present, courtesy and nobility of manners disappear. Juan Diego was from a very simple social level; notwithstanding, he acted as a noble when he dealt with Our Lady.

The Catholic courtesy that bloomed in Europe was, at base, a daughter of the virtue that society practiced in the Middle Ages. When this virtue died away and the Revolution started to be accepted by society, courtesy lost its root and began to move toward the complete brutality of manners that exists in Communist countries or the blatant vulgarity that prevails in the Western countries that adhered to egalitarianism.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Feast Day: December 9
b.1474 d.1548

Juan Diego was born in 1474 in the calpulli or ward of Tlayacac in Cuauhtitlan, which was established in 1168 by Nahua tribesmen and conquered by the Aztec lord Axayacatl in 1467; and was located 20 kilometers (14 miles) north of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City).

On December 9, 1531, a native Mexican named Juan Diego rose before dawn to walk fifteen miles to daily Mass in what is now Mexico City. Juan lived a simple life as a weaver, farmer, and laborer. That morning, as Juan passed Tepeyac Hill, he heard music and saw a glowing cloud encircled by a rainbow. A woman's voice called him to the top of the hill. There he saw a beautiful young woman dressed like an Aztec princess. She said she was the Virgin Mary and asked Juan to tell the bishop to build a church on that site. She said, "I vividly desire that a church be built on this site, so that in it I can be present and give my love, compassion, help, and defense, for I am your most devoted mother . . . to hear your laments and to remedy all your miseries, pains, and sufferings."

The bishop was kind but skeptical. He asked Juan to bring proof of the Lady's identity. Before Juan could go back to the Lady, he found out his uncle was dying. Hurrying to get a priest, Juan missed his meeting with the Lady. The Lady, however, met him on his path and told him that his uncle had been cured.

She then told Juan to climb to the top of the hill where they first met. Juan was shocked to find flowers growing in the frozen soil. He gathered them in his cloak and took them at once to the bishop.

Juan told the bishop what had happened and opened his cloak. The flowers that fell to the ground were Castilian roses (which were not grown in Mexico). But the bishop's eyes were on the glowing image of the Lady imprinted inside Juan's cloak.

Soon after, a church was built on the site where our Lady appeared, and thousands converted to Christianity. 

With the Bishop's permission, Juan Diego lived the rest of his life as a hermit in a small hut near the chapel where the miraculous image was placed for veneration. Here he cared for the church and the first pilgrims who came to pray to the Mother of Jesus.

Much deeper than the "exterior grace" of having been "chosen" as Our Lady's "messenger", Juan Diego received the grace of interior enlightenment and from that moment, he began a life dedicated to prayer and the practice of virtue and boundless love of God and neighbour. He died in 1548 and was buried in the first chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. He was beatified on 6 May 1990 by Pope John Paul II in the Basilica of Santa Maria di Guadalupe, Mexico City.

The miraculous image, which is preserved in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, shows a woman with native features and dress. She is supported by an angel whose wings are reminiscent of one of the major gods of the traditional religion of that area. The moon is beneath her feet and her blue mantle is covered with gold stars. The black girdle about her waist signifies that she is pregnant. Thus, the image graphically depicts the fact that Christ is to be "born" again among the peoples of the New World, and is a message as relevant to the "New World" today as it was during the lifetime of Juan Diego.
Juan Diego by Miguel Cabrera
Pope John Paul II praised Juan Diego for his simple faith nourished by catechesis and pictured him (who said to the Blessed Virgin Mary: “I am a nobody, I am a small rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf”) as a model of humility for all of us.

In His Footsteps:

Juan walked fifteen miles to attend Mass every day. Participate in Mass one day this week that is not a Sunday Mass. If this is impossible, take a long walk outside and notice the miracles of God's love during that walk. You may not see roses in the snow or hear music, but there is plenty to praise God for!


Blessed Juan, you faced the skepticism and rejection of a bishop and the crowds to bring Mary's message to Mexico. Pray for us that when we are faced with obstacles to our faith we may show that same courage and commitment. Amen

Three Remarkable Facts About the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe:  
  • The stars on the Blessed Mother’s dress correspond to the constellations that were present over the Mexican skies in 1531!
  • In 1921, a bomb planted by an anti-clerical group exploded beneath the main altar of the old basilica, directly beneath the image.  The explosion blew out several windows in the church and twisted a large cast-iron crucifix, but the image and the glass covering over itsuffered no damage whatsoever!
  • In 1929, a photographer noticed the tiny face of a bearded man in the right eye of the Blessed Mother's image; a man resembling the oldest known portrait of St. Juan Diego!

Today Juan Diego's tilma continues to baffle science. Studies conducted on the image confirm that it's NOT a painting, but rather the result of unexplainable color changes to the top-most fibers of the cactus cloth. Furthermore, the survival of the tilma itself is considered inexplicable as the lifespan of this type of cloth is normally about twenty years, yet the tilma has remained perfectly intact for almost five hundred years despite its earlier exposure to harsh conditions (e.g. burning candles), which should've contributed to its speedy deterioration.


Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Jean Bellegambe
Saint Anne conceiving the Virgin Mary

Prayer of Pope John Paul II
December 8, 2003
Queen of peace, pray for us! Our gaze is directed toward you in great fear, to you do we turn with ever-more insistent faith in these times marked by many uncertainties and fears for the present and future of our planet.Together we lift our confident and sorrowful petition to you, the first fruit of humanity redeemed by Christ, finally freed from the slavery of evil and sin: hear the cry of the pain of victims of war and so many forms of violence that bloody the earth. Clear away the darkness of sorrow and worry, of hate and vengeance. Open up our minds and hearts to faith and forgiveness!
Mother of mercy and hope:
Help every human being of every race and culture to find and embrace Jesus, who
came to earth in the mystery of Christmas to give us 'His' peace. Mary, Queen of peace, give us Christ, true peace in the world!

Date: December 8

Type of Feast: Solemnity; Holy Day of Obligation

Misconceptions About the Immaculate Conception:

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is the subject of a lot of misbeliefs. Perhaps the most common one, held even by some Catholics, is that it celebrates the conception of Christ in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We celebrate another feast—the Annunciation of the Lord—on March 25, exactly nine months before Christmas. It was at the Annunciation, when the Blessed Virgin Mary humbly accepted the honor bestowed on her by God and announced by the angel Gabriel, that the conception of Christ took place.

What is the Immaculate Conception?

The Immaculate Conception refers to the condition that the Blessed Virgin Mary was free from Original Sin from the very moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne. The painting above depicts the Immaculate Mary within her womb. We celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8; nine months before is December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

History of the Feast:
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, in its oldest form, goes back to the seventh century, when churches in the East began celebrating the Feast of the Conception of Saint Anne, the mother of Mary. In other words, this feast celebrates the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of Saint Anne; and nine months later, on September 8, we celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As originally celebrated (and as still celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Churches), however, the Feast of the Conception of Saint Anne does not have the same understanding as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception has in the Catholic Church today. The feast arrived in the West probably no earlier than the 11th century, and at that time, it began to be tied up with a developing theological controversy. Both the Eastern and the Western Church had maintained that Mary was free from sin throughout her life, but there were different understandings of what this meant.

Development of the Doctrine:

Because of the doctrine of Original Sin, some in the West began to believe that Mary could not have been sinless unless she had been saved from Original Sin at the moment of her conception (thus making the conception "immaculate"). Others, however, including St. Thomas Aquinas, argued that Mary could not have been redeemed if she had not been subject to sin—at least, to Original Sin.

The answer to St. Thomas Aquinas's objection, as Blessed John Duns Scotus (d. 1308) showed, was that God had sanctified Mary at the moment of her conception in His foreknowledge that the Blessed Virgin would consent to bear Christ. In other words, she too had been redeemed—her redemption had simply been accomplished at the moment of her conception, rather than (as with all other Christians) in Baptism.

Spread of the Feast in the West:

After Duns Scotus's defense of the Immaculate Conception, the feast spread throughout the West, though it was still often celebrated at the Feast of the Conception of Saint Anne. On February 28, 1476, however, Pope Sixtus IV extended the feast to the entire Western Church, and in 1483 threatened with excommunication those who opposed the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. By the middle of the 17th century, all opposition to the doctrine had died out in the Catholic Church.

Promulgation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception:

On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX officially declared the Immaculate Conception a dogma of the Church, which means that all Christians are bound to accept it as true. As the Holy Father wrote in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful."

In Luke 1:28 the angel Gabriel, speaking on God’s behalf, addresses Mary as “full of grace” (or “highly favored”). In that context this phrase means that Mary is receiving all the special divine help necessary for the task ahead. However, the Church grows in understanding with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit led the Church, especially non-theologians, to the insight that Mary had to be the most perfect work of God next to the Incarnation. Or rather, Mary’s intimate association with the Incarnation called for the special involvement of God in Mary’s whole life. The logic of piety helped God’s people to believe that Mary was full of grace and free of sin from the first moment of her existence. Moreover, this great privilege of Mary is the highlight of all that God has done in Jesus. Rightly understood, the incomparable holiness of Mary shows forth the incomparable goodness of God.

“[Mary] gave to the world the Life that renews all things, and she was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.

“It is no wonder, then, that the usage prevailed among the holy Fathers whereby they called the mother of God entirely holy and free from all stain of sin, fashioned by the Holy Spirit into a kind of new substance and new creature. Adorned from the first instant of her conception with the splendors of an entirely unique holiness, the Virgin of Nazareth is, on God’s command, greeted by an angel messenger as ‘full of grace’ (cf. Luke 1:28). To the heavenly messenger she replies: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word’ (Luke 1:38)” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 56).

Invocations to Mary:

This brief prayer, known as an aspiration or ejaculation, is most famous for its presence on the Miraculous Medal, one of the most popular Catholic sacramentals. "Conceived without sin" is a reference to Mary's Immaculate Conception.

Aspiration to Mary

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

In the following prayer to the Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception, we ask for the assistance we need in order to avoid sin. Just as we might ask our own mother for help, we turn to Mary, "Mother of God and my Mother," that she may intercede for us.

To the Virgin Immaculate

O Virgin Immaculate, Mother of God and my Mother, from thy sublime height turn upon me thine eyes of pity. Filled with confidence in thy goodness and knowing full well thy power, I beseech thee to extend to me thine assistance in the journey of life, which is so full of danger for my soul. And in order that I may never be the slave of the devil through sin, but may ever live with my heart humble and pure, I entrust myself wholly to thee. I consecrate my heart to thee for ever, my only desire being to love thy divine Son Jesus. Mary, none of thy devout servants has ever perished; may I too be saved. Amen.

Patron Saint of: Brazil, United States


Monday, December 5, 2011

Feast Day: St. Nicholas of Myra, Bishop and Wonder-worker

Introduction to the Life of Saint Nicholas of Myra:
There are few saints better known than Saint Nicholas of Myra, and yet there is remarkably little that we can say for certain about his life. His birthdate is lost to history; even his birthplace (Parara of Lycia, in Asia Minor) is first recorded in the tenth century, though it was drawn from traditional legends and may be incorrect. (No one has ever suggested that Saint Nicholas was born anywhere else.)

Quick Facts:
Feast Day: December 6
Type of Feast: Optional Memorial
Readings: Isaiah 40:1-11; Matthew 18:12-14
Dates: Unknown (Parara, Lycia, Asia Minor)-December 6, 345 (or 352) (Myria, Lycia)
Patron of: Children, mariners, pawnbrokers, merchants, bakers, travelers, the Byzantine Catholic Church
Canonization: By popular acclamation

The Life of Saint Nicholas:
What seems most certain is that, sometime after becoming Bishop of Myra, Saint Nicholas was imprisoned during the Christian persecution under the Roman Emperor Diocletian (245-313). When Constantine the Great became emperor and issued the Edict of Milan (313), extending official tolerance to Christianity, Saint Nicholas was released.

Tradition places him at the Council of Nicea (325), though the oldest lists of bishops in attendance do not include his name. It is said that, during one of the most heated moments of the council, he walked across the room to the heretic Arius, who denied the divinity of Christ, and slapped him in the face. Certainly, by all accounts, Saint Nicholas combined a firm orthodoxy with a gentleness toward those in his flock, and Arius's false teaching threatened the souls of Christians.

Saint Nicholas died on December 6
(December 19 on the Julian Calendar), but accounts of the year of his death vary; the two most common dates are 345 and 352.

In 1087, while the Christians of Asia Minor were under assault by Muslims, Italian merchants obtained the relics of Saint Nicholas, which had been held in a church at Myra, and brought them to the city of Bari, in southern Italy. There, the relics were placed in a great basilica consecrated by Pope Urban II, where they have remained.

Saint Nicholas is called "Wonder-Worker" because of the number of miracles attributed to him, particularly after his death. Like all of those who earn the name "Wonder-Worker," Saint Nicholas lived a life of great charity, and the miracles after his death reflect that.
The Legend of Saint Nicholas:
The traditional elements of the legend of Saint Nicholas include his becoming an orphan at a very young age. Though his family had been rich, Saint Nicholas decided to distribute all of his possessions to the poor and to dedicate himself to serving Christ. It is said that he would toss little pouches of coins through the windows of the poor, and that sometimes the pouches would land in stockings that had been washed and were hung on the windowsill to dry. Once, finding all the windows in a house shut, Saint Nicholas tossed the pouch up to the roof, where it went down the chimney.

Saint Nicholas is said to have made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land as a young man, traveling by sea. When a storm arose, the sailors thought that they were doomed, but through Saint Nicholas's prayers, the waters were calmed. Returning to Myra, Saint Nicholas found that news of the miracle had already reached the city, and the bishops of Asia Minor chose him to replace the recently deceased bishop of Myra.

As bishop, Saint Nicholas remembered his own past as an orphan and held a special place in his heart for orphans (and all young children). He continued to give them small gifts and money (especially to the poor), and he provided dowries to three young women who could not afford to marry (and who were in danger, therefore, of entering into a life of prostitution).

After Saint Nicholas's death, his fame continued to spread in both Eastern and Western Europe. Throughout Europe, there are many churches and even towns named after Saint Nicholas. By the late Middle Ages, Catholics in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands had begun to celebrate his feast day by giving small gifts to young children. On December 5, the children would leave their shoes by the fireplace, and the next morning, they would find small toys and coins in them.

In the East, after the celebration of the Divine Liturgy on his feast day, a member of the congregation dressed as Saint Nicholas would enter the church to bring children small gifts and to instruct them in the Faith. (In some areas in the West, this visit occurred on the evening of December 5, at the homes of children.)

In recent years in the United States, these customs (especially the placing of the shoes by the fireplace) have been revived. Such practices are a very good way of reminding our children of the life of this beloved saint, and encouraging them to imitate his charity, as Christmas approaches.

More on Saint Nicholas of Myra

Prayer of Impetration to Saint Nicholas
This prayer of impetration to Saint Nicholas of Myra calls to mind the events of the life of this great bishop and wonder-worker. An ardent opponent of heresy, Saint Nicholas was especially devoted to the poor and needy in his flock. We ask Saint Nicholas to intercede for us and for all who need his help.

Impetration, by the way, is simply a fancy word for petition or entreaty-in other words, a request.

A Prayer of Impetration to Saint Nicholas
Glorious St. Nicholas, my special patron, from thy throne in glory, where thou dost enjoy the presence of God, turn thine eyes in pity upon me and obtain for me from our Lord the graces and helps that I need in my spiritual and temporal necessities (and especially this favor [mention your request], provided that it be profitable to my salvation). Be mindful, likewise, O glorious and saintly Bishop, of our Sovereign Pontiff, of Holy Church, and of all Christian people. Bring back to the right way of salvation all those who are living steeped in sin and blinded by the darkness of ignorance, error, and heresy. Comfort the afflicted, provide for the needy, strengthen the fearful, defend the oppressed, give health to the infirm; cause all men to experience the effects of thy powerful intercession with the supreme Giver of every good and perfect gift. Amen.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be

V. Pray for us, O blessed Nicholas.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.O God, who has glorified blessed Nicholas, Thine illustrious Confessor and Bishop, by means of countless signs and wonders, and who dost not cease daily so to glorify him; grant, we beseech Thee, that we, being assisted by his merits and prayers, may be delivered from the fires of hell and from all dangers. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Invocation to Saint Nicholas

This invocation to Saint Nicholas of Myra takes the form of an ejaculation or an aspiration, a short prayer meant to be repeated throughout the day. The real-life model for our Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century bishop and wonder-worker, is greatly venerated by Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, as well as Catholics in Western Europe. In recent years, some Catholics in the United States have revived devotion to Saint Nicholas, and his feast day (December 6) has become one of the high points of Advent.

St. Nicholas, glorious Confessor of Christ, assist us in thy loving kindness.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

St. Nicholas Giveaway

For Catholic Etsy Artists Guild team members only:

Yesterday, I met someone who did me a kindness she knew I could never pay back so I decided to do this. On Dec. 6, I am giving away a rosary, prayer beads, or handmade vintage medal earrings to anyone on this team (Catholic Etsy Artists Guild) who signs up on my blog (add yourself), facebook (you must like me; if you're already do you already have 1 point), here on the discussion group, or the google group. The more you sign up (up to 4 times), the more changes you have to win. Basically anyone on this team can wine one item, either a rosary, prayer beads, or vintage medal earrings - one item of your choice if you win. I will draw on Dec. 6, the Feast of St. Nicholas (my husband, Nikolay's name day) at 8 p.m. by random number generator. To give me some time to check to see if the person who won is actually a team member, I won't announce it until the next day. There are five items to choose from. All I wish is that the winner PIF in any way. PLEASE tell your teamcatholic neighbors too. Just copy and paste. Thank you and God bless you all.

To get four chances to win:
1. Comment to this discussion
2. Comment on the google group
3. Like and comment on my facebook page
4. Follow my blog and comment on
What you need to know: (5 items listed RESERVED)