The ancient custom of devotion to Saint Nicholas has its place near the beginning of the Advent season. This small statue is venerated at Carmel by the faithful and written intentions are placed before it.
History of Saint Nicholas:
Bishop of Myra in Lycia, Asia Minor; died 6 December, 345 or 352. He is one of the most popular saints in the Greek as well as the Latin Church.
Cast into prison during the persecution of Diocletian, he was released after the accession of Constantine, and was present at the Council of Nicaea. He was devoted to penitence and hidden works of charity from his early years and to the study of sacred truth which he vigorously defended. He was known for his many miracles both in life and after death. It was through his reputation for charity and his patronage of children that the custom of giving gifts developed at Christmastime.
On May 9, 1087, his body was transferred from Myra to Bari in southern Italy where it remains to this day. His shrine there became a great center of devotion and pilgrimage from all over Europe. He is called the “Wonder-Worker” and many are the miracles he worked both in life and after his death. His relics are still preserved in the church of San Nicola in Bari. Up to the present day an oily substance, known as Manna di S. Nicola, which is highly valued for its medicinal powers, is said to flow from them.
The course of centuries has not lessened his popularity. The following places honour him as patron: Greece, Russia, the Kingdom of Naples, Sicily, Lorraine, the Diocese of Liège; many cities in Italy, Germany, Austria, and Belgium; Campen in the Netherlands; Corfu in Greece; Freiburg in Switzerland; and Moscow in Russia. He is patron of mariners, merchants, bakers, travelers, children. His representations in art are as various as his alleged miracles. In Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, they have the custom of making him the secret purveyor of gifts to children on 6 December, the day on which the Church celebrates his feast; in the United States and some other countries St. Nicholas has become identified with Santa Claus who distributes gifts to children on Christmas eve. Let us remember that he is a canonized Saint of the Church and honor him as such.