Friday, December 7, 2007

Happy (Belated) St. Nicholas Day

I was planning to post something about St. Nicholas yesterday, but all of my free time got funneled into finishing a project which is due at my next class meeting. I staggered to bed at 2:00 a.m. But this morning I see that Rhinemouse at Zero Summer has posted my favorite legend of St. Nicholas ever: "How Saint Nicolas Met and Overcame the Goddess Diana." It's from the book, The Twenty Miracles of Saint Nicolas written and illustrated by Bernarda Bryson. It's out of print, but well worth picking up if you can find a used copy.

As Rhinemouse points out, he's an all-purpose saint: "[the] patron of mariners, moneylenders, thieves, children, travelers, turners, dyers, coopers, boatmen, bootmakers, sawyers, seedmen, mercers, merchants, Greeks, cities, Jews, packers, spinsters, pirates, Russians, pickpockets, haberdashers, children, fishermen, pilgrims, prisoners, parish clerks, sailors, unwedded maids, and little boys chopped up and packed into pickle barrels. (Which I suppose would also make him the patron of characters in slasher films.) According to legend, he attended the Council of Nicaea and smacked Arius, which I guess would also make him the patron of cranky Catholics . . . . "

Our family always celebrated his feast day by reading aloud stories from this book on the days leading up to December 6th. On the evening of December 5th we had the children put their shoes near the front door and they were miraculously filled with cookies, gold wrapped chocolate coins, and sometimes small gifts, thanks to the agency of the saint.

Many families make a point of celebrating the liturgical year with their children as a means of teaching the faith and passing on their religious and cultural traditions. Certainly that was one of our reasons for doing so. But I think that it also served to instill in our children the firm conviction that Catholics just have more fun.

Besides the well known stories of "The Three Schoolboys and the Salting Tub" and "The Miracle of the Three Dowerless Maidens," the book includes "Saint Nicolas and the Prophet Mohammed," "Of a Woman Who Left Her Baby to Boil," "The Legend of a Boy Possessed by the Devil," "The Pawnbroker and the Greek," and many more.

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