Saint of the Day – 10 September – St Nicholas of Tolentino OSA (1245-1305)- known as the Patron of Holy Souls, Priest, Augustinian Friar Monk, Confessor, Mystic, Preacher (1245 at Sant’Angelo, March of Ancona, diocese of Fermo, Italy – 10 September 1305 at Tolentino, Italy following a long illness). His relics were re-discovered at Tolentino in 1926. In previous times his relics were known exude blood when the Church was in danger. He was Canonised on 5 June (Pentecost) 1446 by Pope Eugene IV – over 300 miracles were recognised by the Congregation. Patronages – animals, babies (reported to have raised more than 100 children from the dead), boatmen, mariners, sailors, watermen, dying people, sick animals, souls in Purgatory, 4 cities, 3 dioceses. Attributes – Augustinian holding a bird on a plate in the right hand and a crucifix on the other hand; holding a basket of bread, giving bread to a sick person; holding a lily or a crucifix garlanded with lilies; with a star above him or on his breast.
St Nicholas was born in 1245 in Sant’Angelo. He was named after St Nicholas of Myra, at whose shrine his parents prayed to have a child. Nicholas became a monk at 18 and seven years later, he was ordained a priest. He gained a reputation as a preacher and a confessor. In c 1274, he was sent to Tolentino, near his birthplace where he lived the rest of his lif. Nicholas was primarily a pastor to his flock. He ministered to the poor and the criminal. He is said to have cured the sick with bread over which he had prayed to Mary, the mother of God. He gained a reputation as a wonder-worker.
On account of his kind and gentle manner his superiors entrusted him with the daily feeding of the poor at the monastery gates but at times he was so free with the friary’s provisions that the procurator begged the superior to check his generosity. Once, when weak after a long fast, he received a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Augustine who told him to eat some bread marked with cross and dipped in water. Upon doing so he was immediately stronger. He started distributing these rolls to the ailing, while praying to Mary, often curing the sufferers; this is the origin of the Augustinian custom of blessing and distributing Saint Nicholas Bread. When working wonders or healing people, he always asked those he helped to “Say nothing of this”, explaining that he was just God’s instrument.
During his life, Nicholas is said to have received visions, including images of Purgatory, which friends ascribed to his lengthy fasts. Prayer for the souls in purgatory was the outstanding characteristic of his spirituality. Because of this Nicholas was proclaimed patron of the souls in Purgatory in 1884 by Leo XIII. Towards the end of his life he became ill, suffering greatly, but still continued the mortifications that had been part of his holy life. Nicholas died on 10 September 1305.
There are many tales and legends which relate to Nicholas. One says the devil once beat him with a stick, which was then displayed for years in his church. In another, Nicholas, a vegetarian, was served a roasted fowl, for which he made the sign of the cross and it flew out a window. Nine passengers on a ship going down at sea once asked Nicholas’ aid and he appeared in the sky, wearing the black Augustinian habit, radiating golden light, holding a lily in his left hand, and with his right hand, he quelled the storm. An apparition of the saint, it is said, once saved the burning palace of the Doge of Venice by throwing a piece of blessed bread on the flames. He was also reported to have resurrected over one hundred dead children, including several who had drowned together.
According to the Peruvian chronicler Antonio de la Calancha, it was St. Nicholas of Tolentino who made possible a permanent Spanish settlement in the rigorous, high-altitude climate of Potosí, Bolivia. e reported that all children born to Spanish colonists there died in childbirth or soon thereafter, until a father dedicated his unborn child to St Nicholas of Tolentino (whose own parents, after all, had required saintly intervention to have a child). The colonist’s son, born on Christmas Eve, 1598, survived to healthy adulthood and many later parents followed the example of naming their sons Nicolás.
Nicholas was Canonised by Pope Eugene IV (also an Augustinian) in 1446. He was the first Augustinian to be Canonised. At his Canonisation, Nicholas was credited with three hundred miracles, including three resurrections.
The remains of St Nicholas are preserved at the Shrine of Saint Nicholas in the Basilica di San Nicola da Tolentino in the city of Tolentino, province of Macerata in Marche, Italy.
He is particularly invoked as an advocate for the souls in Purgatory, especially during Lent and the month of November. In many Augustinian churches, there are weekly devotions to St Nicholas on behalf of the suffering souls. November 2, All Souls’ Day, holds special significance for the devotees of St. Nicholas of Tolentino.