This coming Friday, December 6, is the feast day of Saint Nicholas, Bishop and Confessor. There are many wonderful family traditions that surround this wonderful feast day, so I wanted to speak about them in today’s catechesis. Saint Nicholas is a wonderful character from the early centuries of the Church and for a variety of reasons has become a favorite saint of little children. This devotion is easily explained, because he was, and still is, a special patron saint of children. In many parts of Europe, children are still visited by Saint Nicholas on the eve of his feast day. His feast day comes at the beginning of Advent because he desires to teach us how to prepare our hearts to celebrate a holy Christmas. In some countries, his main duty is to examine children to see if they know their prayers and catechism, and after teaching them to be good, he distributes fruit and candy and departs with a kindly farewell, leaving the little ones filled with holy awe. This feast is a wonderful opportunity to meditate on the blessings and joys that God will give us at the intercession of St. Nicholas, through His Son, Jesus Christ, during this holy season of Advent. St. Nicholas was a holy bishop when he lived on earth and he intercedes for us now in heaven.
Some Ideas to Help Keep this Feast of St. Nicholas in Catholic Homes:
1. On the night before his feast, the Saint has been known to leave bags or shoes filled with gifts and treats for the children as a small foretaste of the graces God desires to give His children while they are in this world to help them attain Heaven.
2. In the morning, after morning prayers, the family could read aloud an account of the life and works of St. Nicholas.
3. Copy the little prayer from the Collect of the Mass of St. Nicholas on to the top half of a 3x5 card. Fold the card in half and stand one next to each person’s place at the meal table to be read with the grace before meals.
4. To keep the spirit of this feast in a special way, the evening meal could be a festive one. The table can be covered with a beautiful white table cloth to coincide with the white vestments worn today at Mass. The meal could be eaten by candlelight.
5. Fashion a pretty centerpiece of evergreen boughs symbolizing everlasting life. Place a statue or picture of St. Nicholas in the center. Adorn each side of this centerpiece with 2 red candles to be lit during the festive evening meal. Note: be careful not to mistake statues and pictures of “Father Christmas” for St. Nicholas.
6. Say this prayer with your children or for children: “God our Father, we pray that through the intercession of St. Nicholas, you will protect our children. Keep them safe from harm and help them grow and become worthy in Your sight. Give them strength to keep their Faith in You; and keep alive their joy in your creation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
7. Cook the Traditional St. Nicholas Day Dinner: 4-6 lb. pork shoulder roast -stuffed with: 1/2 cup diced fresh cranberries, 1 apple, diced, 2/3 cup prunes cut into bits, 1/2 -2/3 cup raisins. Bake in oven for about 3 -3/12 hours at 350 degrees. Or cook in crock pot all day slowly. (Serves 8) Accompany with mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetable, dinner rolls.