Today in the Universal Church, we celebrate the feast day of St. Nicholas of Bari -- well-known as the Spiritual Father of Christmas. (Yes kids! That does St. Nicholas is more important than Santa Claus.)
When we look deeper into the life of St. Nicholas, we know that he was born sometime in the 3rd century in the village of Patara, located on the southern coast of Turkey.
His parents were known to be very well off financially. Unfortunately, Nicholas' parents died in an epidemic while he was still a young boy.
That didn't set Nicholas back. Instead, he took Jesus' words very seriously. He took to heart the Gospel when Jesus said, "Go sell what you own and give your money to the poor." Nicholas then designated his entire inheritance to be given to help those who were sick, suffering and in need.
When most people reflect on the life of St. Nicholas, they immediately think of his unwavering commitment to serving God. The Lord had big plans for him. That's why he was appointed the Bishop of Myra. Apart from his apostolic and spiritual duties, Bishop Nicholas was renowned for his incredible generosity. He made a point of reaching out to children and was passionately concerned for sailors.
St. Nicholas' feast day is widely celebrated in Europe. The spirit and energy of December 6th is definitely alive and well!
For example, in the Netherlands and Belgium, it is well known that St. Nicholas arrived from Spain, riding a white horse, to deliver gifts. Furthermore, Dutch children have been accustomed to leaving carrots and hay in their shoes for St. Nicholas' horse. When St. Nicholas' feast day is celebrated, candies, stories and small, unique gits are shared.
As we get closer to celebrating the feast of Christmas, may we always keep in mind that Christmas is not all about bags, boxes and wrapping paper. Forget the malls, too. Gift-giving is fine. However, we must not lose focus of what really happens on Christmas Day. A simple, poor and humble child was born in a stable. That, in itself, is truly the best gift of all.
St. Nicholas, pray for us.
Credit: CNS Photo / Patricia Coll Freeman