St. Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra, is most well-known to Western civilization as Santa Claus. He is also called “the Wonderworker” due to the amount of miracles which have been attributed to him.
This saint was born during the third century in the region of Lycia, which is on the south coast of Asia Minor. Within the region of Lycia are the city of Patara, where St. Nicholas was born, and the city of Myra, where St. Nicholas was appointed archbishop.
Nicholas’ parents were Theophanes and Nonna, who dedicated their only child to God and died while he was “still young” (stnicholascenter.org). The young saint used his parents money to care for the poor and needy.
Around 300 AD, St. Nicholas was appointed Bishop of Myra. The story of his appointment is as follows:
Upon the death of Archbishop John, Nicholas was chosen as Bishop of Myra after one of the bishops of the Council said that a new archbishop should be revealed by God, not chosen by men. One of the elder bishops had a vision of a radiant Man, Who told him that the one who came to the church that night and was first to enter should be made archbishop. He would be named Nicholas. The bishop went to the church at night to await Nicholas. The saint, always the first to arrive at church, was stopped by the bishop. “What is your name, child?” he asked. God’s chosen one replied, “My name is Nicholas, Master, and I am your servant.” (oca.org)
During his years as bishop, the wonderworker was imprisoned by the Emperor Diocletian and was punished and tortured for his faith. Later, under Emperor Constantine, the bishop was released.
Nicholas of Myra was also present at the Council of Nicaea in 325 and played a part in writing the Nicene Creed, which is the basis for what is used in Catholic Churches today. There is also an account of the Council of Nicaea in which St. Nicholas argued with Arius, for whom the Arian heresy is named, and punched him in the nose. For this act, the Bishop of Myra was stripped of his office and put in prison. He was later released and given back his bishopric.
St. Nicholas is patron saint of travelers (on both land and sea), of children, of lost causes, of merchants, of archers, of repentant thieves, of brides, of unmarried people and many more.
Prayer to St. Nicholas
O good holy Nicholas,
you who brought joy to children,
put in my heart the spirit of childhood
about which the Gospel speaks.
Teach me how to sow
happiness around me. Amen. (stnicholascenter.org)