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THE SAINT KNOWN FOR HIS GENEROSITY

Father Francis's picture
Saint Nicholas

Today we celebrate the feast of one of the most popular saints: Nicholas, patron of Russia, of sailors and of children. He is honoured in both the Eastern and Western churches, and has become known to children everywhere as Santa Claus.

All we can say with certainty is that Nicholas was born towards the end of the 3rd century in Pataria, a town in the Roman province of Lycia. This part of Asia Minor had been evangelised by St. Paul, and Nicholas' Christian family background provided the foundation or his religious vocation. He became bishop of Myra, the capital and chief seaport of Lycia. He died there around the year 350.

In 325 the great Council of Nicea was convened in order to clarify Church teaching. In particular, the Council condemned Arianism, a heresy which denied the divinity of Jesus. It is said that Nicholas attended and strongly defended the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity.

Several stories have been told of Nicholas which illustrate his generosity. One is of a poor man who was unable to provide a dowry for his three daughters until Nicholas secretly tossed three bags of gold through the man's window.

This legend is the basis of our tradition of exchanging Christmas gifts. We are now so familiar with the image of Santa Claus, that jolly benevolent old man who brings presents for children at Christmas, that it is easy to overlook the spiritual legacy of St. Nicholas which was his great love for the poor. In this season of Christmas shopping, let us remember that Nicholas gave to those in need, secretly, with no thought of receiving anything in return. Can we give a little of our time or money in charity this Christmas? Whatever we give to the needy we are truly giving to Jesus.