Who Was St. Nicholas?

By custom, Nicholas is remembered on the date of his death, December 6–his new “birthday” into God’s nearer presence. As such, he is the perfect saint for Advent. In the hustle and bustle of a world preoccupied with Christmas, Saint Nicholas reminds us that the incarnation of Jesus is exemplified in the models of faith we call Saints — those whose lives showed the light of Christ to a dark and sinful world.

Nicholas suffered under Roman emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians and is believed to have been tortured in prison. Some say this increased his love and affection for those treated unjustly. Some years later, however, the emperor Constantine embraced the Christian faith and made possible the first ecumenical council of the church. Nicholas, having survived his imprisonment, likely attended.

On a trip by sea to the Holy Land, his prayers calmed a raging storm and moved the sailors to great devotion. To this day, sailors pay homage to him as their patron and protector.

Although Nicholas is especially well-known for his charity and love for children, he used his wealth to relieve all who were in need: poor families, widows and especially orphans and poor children. He is the personification of Christian love and affection and is honored by Christians throughout the world.