Today is the feast of St. Nicholas. All the children are now gone and grown, no little shoes were lined up at the front door last night waiting to be filled with chocolate coins and other traditional treats. However Fillius and I still maintain the family tradition of reading aloud from The Twenty Miracles of Saint Nicolas by Bernarda Bryson. Usually we skip around in the book, hitting all of our favorites during the octave of the feast. But this year I decided to start reading at the very beginning of the book and to work our way through to the end. So last night, the vigil of the feast, I began by reading the opening words of the book:
"Here is the story of Saint Nicolas, Bishop of Myra, patron saint of mariners, moneylenders, thieves and children; protector of travelers, turners, dyers, coopers, boatmen, bootmakers, sawyers, seedmen, mercers, merchants, Greeks, cities, Jews, packers, spinsters, pirates, Russians, pickpockets, haberdashers, children, fishermen, pilgrims, pilgrims, prisoners, parish clerks, sailors and unwedded maids; defender of the Faith and maker of many true miracles." He really is the patron saint of everybody! (I love illustrations in this book. The one on the facing page shows a crowd of little figures -- examples of all the many groups of which St. Nicolas is a patron. But what is a centaur doing among them? I haven't quite figured that one out.)
The first story tells about the birth of Saint Nicolas and how the nurses who sought to bathe the infant saint were completely freaked out when he stood upright in the bath and spoke to them in Greek. Convinced that he was possessed by the devil, they fled the house. Then he grieved his mother by refusing to nurse on Tuesday or Friday.
"Oh my dear child, what is this curse that has fallen upon us? Am I made of poison that you refuse to take my milk?"
To her great surprise the baby replied to her, speaking clearly, 'Oh Mother, ' he said, 'do you not know that today is Friday and is a fasting day, and that Tuesdays are fasting days also, when the good and pious take no food?" Then the mother was full of joy, for she saw that the child would grow up to be a holy man, perhaps even a Saint, and that he was in no way possessed by the devil.
If you were not around to read it last year, you might like to click here to read one of the later stories in the book, "How Saint Nicolas Met and Overcame the Goddess Diana."
Or you could read this Irish story about St. Nicolas from from another book: The Real St. Nicholas: Tales of Generosity and Hope From Around the World, by Louise Carus.
Nicolas certainly did get around!