Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Memorial of St. Nicholas

The story of St. Nicholas, bishop of Myrna, is well-known. What is perhaps less well-known is his cult, which developed shortly after his death. His tomb (he was originally buried in his native Myrna) became a pilgrimage destination. As Asia Minor, what is modern-day Turkey, became more and more unstable politically, there was increasing concern that pilgrims may be denied access to his tomb. Largely due to the commercial considerations of becoming a popular pilgrimage destination, the Italian cities of Venice and Bari competed have the great saint's remains transferred to their respective cities. In AD 1087, sailors from Bari succeeded to laying claim to Nicholas' bones. Once in Bari a large church was built over the crypt, Basilica di San Nicola, in which the saintly bishop's remains were re-interred. It became a major pilgrimage destination, making Bari one of the most popular places of pilgrimage in medieval Europe. It remains even today a place of pilgrimage. St. Nicholas is patron of children, sailors, and, because according to tradition he once provided dowry money for some poor young woman so they could married, St. Nicholas is also the patron of young women whose prayer is to find a husband. It is still a known practice that some young women who hope to be married come to his basilica his feast day, leave a note and place 3 coins in a box.

Tomb of St. Nicholas in la Basilia di San Nichola in Bari, Italy

It just didn't seem right to let this day pass without posting something about St. Nicholas. Along with Santa Lucia's memorial, this day is the biggest day of Advent, apart from Sundays, for our family, a little preview of Gaudete Sunday. We relax a little, eat some sweets and exchange very simple gifts. Yes, the sweets were mostly chocolate coins!

St. Nicholas, pray for us!

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