His pious nature led him to devote his life and fortune to good works. He was reputed to anonymously donate dowries to poor young women, ransom children out of slavery and succor the ill among other good works.
This annoyed the Roman emperor Diocletian who threw him and his fellow church officials into jail. Later St. Nicholas became a highly respected bishop. That still didn’t make him a saint.
It was after his death that strange and wonderful things happened that were attributed to St. Nicholas and he was recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as a saint. He is also recognized a saint in the Greek Orthodox tradition and given a feast day – December 6th.
The association of St. Nicholas with Christmas and giving has been in and out of favour with the European churches over the years. In N. America he seems caught in the image painted by the author of Twas the Night Before Christmas. Many believe that he was invented complete by the Coca Cola company to promote their drinks but that is not true. They merely appropriated the image that fit so well with their corporation’s colours.
So this holiday season, spare a thought for the former Bishop of Bari and the good works he is credited with. As he loved children, the needy and the ill remember the reason for the season and commit to one good work in his memory.
Ref: St Nicholas Center
First published by Barbara McPherson at "Saint Nicolas Has Morphed from a Saint to a Salesman."
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