G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.” I certainly think that he would have (and hopefully you will) chuckle at the following joke:What do you call Santa when he has no money? Saint ‘Nickel-less’. Get it? Nicholas?
If you enjoy wordplay, you’re welcome! However, if you find such repartee revolting, I apologize, and implore you to still read on.
Ironically, Nicholas came from a wealthy family (more about that later). Some believed his family riches provided means for him able to make generous visits through the night delivering anonymous gifts to the less unfortunate in his city.
Below are six common (or maybe not so common!) facts about the Catholic saint later popularized and associated with Santa Claus. Regardless of whether you heard of these facts before or not, they are still epic!
1. Santa Clout punched the heretic
Nicholas had such a fervor for the faith that he slugged the heretic priest Arius in the face as he was leading Christians astray by denying the divinity of Christ.
Hearing things like this about saints also gives hope that Heaven is possible even those with quick and short-fused tempers.
2. He participated in the Council of Nicaea
Along with displaying his passion for promoting orthodox teaching, Nicholas was also among the bishops who attended the 1st Ecumenical Council at the city of Nicaea in the early 4th century.
The significance of this council includes the formal declaration of the faith in the Nicene Creed—a profession uttered every Sunday Mass!
3. He was imprisoned for his Catholic faith
Similar to his contemporary, Saint Athanasius, Nicholas also was jailed for his persistence in pursuing and evangelizing the truth of the Gospel.
This should not be of great surprise since Nicholas lived in the most tumultuous times in Catholic Church history. Although Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in 312 A.D., the Diocletian persecution of the turn of the century in 303 A.D. led to Nicholas being among numbers of Christians sent to prison for refusing to renounce Jesus Christ.
His tenacity for refusing to commit apostasy even in the face of persecution puts Nicholas in the company of Saints Peter, Paul, Athanasius, and other bold proclaimers of the Good News!
4. The manna of Nicholas
A legend began in Myra that every year on the feast day of Nicholas, the bones of the saint secrete a hyaline watery substance.
Known as the “Manna of Nicholas,” this substance is believed to have healing effects. If you want to find out more information about this interesting relic, check out this site.
5. He had philanthropic parents
The generosity of the bishop of Myra is well documented. However what you may not have known is that his parents’ generosity strongly influenced him.
According to Lumen Gentium, “The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state.”
Nicholas’ parents both perished as a result of an epidemic. But the morals, character, and faith they instilled in him at a young age served him for the rest of his life.
6. A panoply of patronages
The final of the six epic facts about Nicholas relates to his ability to appeal to a variety of individuals. Along with being known as the patron saint bringing joy to child, Old Saint Nick also especially helps the following groups: merchants, haberdashers, longshoremen, brewers, pawnbrokers, judges, and archers.
Nicholas exhibited true love of God and neighbor through his anonymous gift-giving, especially to impoverished children. While that alone suffices as an amazing role model and exemplary Christian, the bishop of Myra simply exuded holiness in all facets of life.
Together with his ability to give, and give generously, Nicholas withstood persecution and staunchly defended the divinity of Christ against the assault of Arianism.
Some may call him magical, but the true charm of Nicholas came from his profound love of Jesus.
Let us all model Nicholas this Advent and Christmas seasons mirroring the love of God for others to see!