St Nicholas stories and staying jolly

A Russian man yells in the street: "Nicholas is a moron!". The police charge him with insulting the Czar. He pleads, "Please let me go, I meant another Nicholas!". The police chief replies: "Do not lie. If you said 'moron', you certainly meant the Czar!"

Did you know in Nicholas County, West Virginia, it is against the law for clergy to tell jokes from the pulpit during a church service? No Ho Ho in their Santa stories. 

One of the first St Nicholas miracle stories relates how as a young boy Nicholas met a woman with a withered hand. Filled with compassion he laid his hand on her and prayed to God making the sign of the cross. Her hand was healed!

St Nick’s first miracle as a Bishop happened on the day of his consecration. A woman heard the bells calling all to the cathedral. Forgetting everything, she left her baby in a metal tub over a fire to keep it warm. When she returned the house was filled with smoke, but the baby was smiling and safe. She thanked God that Nicholas had spared her baby.

Icons of St Nicholas show him casting out demons, sometimes from several people at a time. His left hand carried a bible while his right was free to bless people. As he destroyed shrines built to idols, shrieking demons would flee.

One story of St Nicholas comes to us through a confused collection that included stories about St Nicholas of Sion. On the feast of St Nicholas pirates looted the Church of St Nicholas and even carried away a young boy Basilios as a slave.

As the year passed Basilios’ mother prayed for her only child. On the next feast of St Nicholas Basilios was serving the emir. The emir asked the boy why he was sad. Basilios said that he missed the celebration of St Nicholas. “You will never be there again,” declared the emir.

As he filled the emir’s golden cup with wine, Basilios was suddenly picked up and whisked away. St Nicholas appeared to him, blessed him and set him down at home in Myra still holding the emir’s golden cup. The whole town gave thanks and celebrated the Saint who had been their bishop.

St Nicholas friend of sailors is another story. A ship was marooned in the Mediterranean, and the sailors prayed to St Nicholas for help. A man appeared and helped them working with poles, prying the ship away from rocks. Safely back home the sailors recognized Bishop Nicholas himself among the clergy at the cathedral.

Another story is of an evil butcher who murdered three lost children, cutting them up and putting them in a salting tub. St Nicholas visited the butcher, and putting his hand on the tub, he appealed to God and said, “Rise up, children.” The families rejoiced at their happy return.

And St Nicholas’ best known story is supplying dowries for three young women at night and saving them from a life of prostitution. Hence the Santa bringing gifts tradition.

Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, St Nicholas is a patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, prostitutes, children, brewers, and pawnbrokers.

St Nicholas of Myra was able to answer prayers while still alive. Have you prayed to St Nicholas lately? What did you want to ask from St Nicholas this year?

(571 words)

By Ken Rolheiser