The Real St. Nick (Santa Claus)

st_nicholas

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

"A vast multitude was imprisoned in every place," wrote an eyewitness. "The prisons — prepared for murderers and robbers — were filled with bishops, priests, and deacons … so there was no longer room for those condemned of crimes.”

You'd hardly expect to find old St. Nick in jail. But St. Nicholas is more than a children's Christmas legend. He was flesh and blood, a prisoner for Christ, bishop of the Mediterranean city of Myra.

What do we know about the real St. Nicholas? He was born, ancient biographers tell us, to wealthy parents in the city of Patara about 270 A.D. He was still young when his mother and father died and left him a fortune.

As a teen-ager, Nicholas' humility was already evident. He had heard about a family destitute and starving. The father had no money for food, much less the dowry needed to marry off his three daughters. He was ready to send his oldest girl into the streets to earn a living as a prostitute.

Under the cover of night, Nicholas threw a bag of gold coins through the window of their humble dwelling. In the morning the father discovered the gold. How he rejoiced: his family was saved, his daughter's honor preserved, and a dowry for her marriage secured. Some time after, Nicholas secretly provided a dowry for the second daughter. Still later for the third.

But on the third occasion, the girls' father stood watching. As soon as the bag of gold thudded on the floor, he chased after the lad till he caught him. Nicholas was mortified to be discovered in this act of charity. He made the father promise not to tell anyone who had helped his family. Then Nicholas forsook his wealth to answer a call to the ministry…

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