Today we observe the liturgical memorial of St. Nicholas of Myra (270-6 Dec. 346). Myra is located in Asia Minor, also known as Anatolia, which is the city of Demre modern Turkey. Because of the many miracles attributed to him, he is also known as Nikolaos o Thaumaturgos (i.e., Nicholas the Wonderworker). Over his ministry he was known as a secret gift-giver, namely for placing coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. Hence, the long-standing tradition of children leaving their shoes out when they go to bed the night before St. Nicholas Day, a tradition we have observed at our house for the entire 17+ years of our marriage. He was Greek bishop, but lived centuries before the East/West schism and so his day is commemorated throughout the universal Church, that is, among Roman Catholics, most Eastern Catholics, and the Eastern Orthodox.
Like many early saints, such as St. Lucia, St. Agnes, St. Martin of Tours, etc., the cultus of St. Nicholas has waned somewhat. He really began to be venerated in the tenth century. Of course, in the West it has been obscured by the Santa Claus metamorphosis.
Nicholas is the patron saint of Russia, children, and sailors. It is due his being the patron of sailors that he is someone we turn to when confronted with danger.
St. Nicholas, holy bishop, pray for us.