The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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September 8, 2000 Issue
Saint of the Day

Mariner fans love this saint

This St. Nicholas, not the famous one, got in trouble for being too generous


By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

Feel like going to sea or are you a Seattle Major League Baseball team fan? Then keep St. Nicholas of Tolentino in mind. He and St. Michael the Archangel are the patrons of mariners.

St. Nicholas of Tolentino - not to be confused with his more famous gift-bearing namesake - was born in 1245 at Sant' Angelo, Ancona, Italy (it's on the eastern coast of Italy, opposite Pisa and Florence).

His middle-aged parents had long wanted children, so they made a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Nicholas at Bari (at the top of the heel on Italy's southeastern coast). And that was how they chose that name for their only child.

After first studying for the diocesan priesthood, Nicholas decided to join the Augustinians after hearing one of the order's friars preaching on the biblical passage, "Love not the world, nor the things of the world.... The world passes away." He made his vows in 1263 after going through the novitiate under that preacher.

Nicholas was ordained in 1270 at Cingoli after completing studies at San Ginesio, where he got into trouble for being too generous in giving away the order's food to the poor. He served for a short while as master of novices at Sant' Elpidio.

Then, in 1274, he was moved to Tolentino, where he soon built a reputation for eloquent preaching and as a confessor. When he arrived in Tolentino, the town was still feeling the effects of civil strife, as well as from religious fanaticism and schism. His vigorous campaign of street preaching is said to have resulted in the conversion of many hardened sinners.

Nicholas also was known for his charitable work among the poor, the sick, the needy, children and criminals. He also had a reputation for miraculous healings of the sick, including a blind woman.

Perhaps the most interesting miracle attributed to him came from the Life of St. Nicholas written in 1380 by Jordan of Saxony. According to this story - more of a legend - a man was killed by a gang of his enemies, who then threw him into a lake. Throughout the attack, the man prayed to Nicholas for protection. A week later, Nicholas appeared, removed the man's body from the water and brought him back to life. The man then went to confession, told bystanders that Nicholas helped him, and died.

Perhaps that story explains why Nicholas is the patron of mariners, or maybe it's because he lived near the sea.

After an illness of about a year, St. Nicholas died in 1305 at Tolentino on Sept. 10, the day on which we celebrate his feast. He was canonized in 1446.

Whether you're a seafarer or a Seattle Mariners fan, keep Nicholas in mind. He's good at miracles.

Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints, Patron Saints and 365 Saints.



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