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Catholic Activity: St. Nicholas Day Ideas

Some ideas for celebrating the Feast of St. Nicholas.

DIRECTIONS

Taken in part from "Religious Customs in the Family" and from "The Christ-like Home"

One of the most beloved saints all through the Middle Ages was St. Nicholas of Myra who actually lived in early Christian times. In fact, St. Nicholas is still the favorite saint of little children in the Catholic sections of Europe. This veneration is easily explained, for he was, and still is, a special patron saint of children. His feast day, December 6, is a great day of celebration for children.

In many Catholic parts of Europe, children still receive his "visit" on the eve of his feast. St. Nicholas is a heavenly messenger to our homes, for, coming at the beginning of Advent, he admonishes us to prepare our hearts for a blessed and holy Christmas. In Catholic countries he even examines children on their prayers and catechism, and after exhorting them to be good, he distributes fruit and candy and departs with a kindly farewell, leaving the little ones filled with holy awe.

(Father Weiser says)

I still vividly remember the annual visit of this friendly and saintly figure on the eve of Dec. 6. With joy and happy excitement we awaited his coming. We knew that he really was our great patron saint who came from heaven on his feast day to the little children who love him.

With real sincerity we promised to overcome our faults, to obey our parents, and to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child on Christmas. Never again in all my life have I experienced the unspeakable thrill of a nearness to heaven as I did on those holy evenings of my childhood on the feast of St. Nicholas. The thrill I had felt remained in my memory and has remained to this day with all its beauty. The whole purpose and meaning of this feast is deeply religious, educational, and of wholesome emotional value. We advocate a revival of the veneration and annual celebration of this saint, who still is patron of little children. Catholic parents would do well to pray to St. Nicholas themselves, that his intercession may help them in the training of their little ones.

On December 6, allow the children a happy celebration in honor of St. Nicholas. The whole family should participate. And do not forget some prayers to this great Saint. Find a small statue of this saint (not "Father Christmas," but of Bishop /Saint Nicholas) for the home on this feast.

The feast of St. Nicholas is a wonderful occasion to meditate on the blessings and joys 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. He is a reminder to all Catholics, and especially to children, that God desires to give the fruits and merits earned by the death of His Son on the cross, through His Church - and especially through the hands of His bishops - to all men. It was to His Apostles, the first Bishops, that Jesus gave the command to " go and teach all nations whatsoever I have commanded you; baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. During Advent, as we await Christ's coming in grace at Christmas, we are reminded that He comes to us today through the successors of His apostle, the Bishops of His Church.

On the holy feast of St. Nicholas, let us meditate on his example and victory, through Jesus Christ, over the world, the flesh, and the devil. Let us put his life and example before our gaze again and beg St. Nicholas to "keep us safe amid all dangers so that we may go forward without hindrance on the road of salvation" ("Lives of the Saints for Every Day of the Year" by: Rev. H. Soever, S.O. Cist, Ph.D.)

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. St. Nicholas comes to them in Jesus" Name.

2. In the morning, along with the usual family morning prayers, we should read aloud an account of the life and works of St. Nicholas. If the account we have in books is too hard for little children to understand, rewrite it in a child's language, mount it on a decorated cardboard, cover it with clear contact paper and use it year after year till they are older. (You can use the reading below called "St. Nicholas of Myra.")

3. Reread this account at lunch and at the evening meals.

4. Copy the little prayer from the text above and the Collect from 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.

COLLECT From Mass of St. Nicholas: "O God, who did adorn, by the working of countless miracles, the holy bishop Nicholas; grant we beg You, that by his merits and prayers, we may be delivered from the pains of hell."

5. To keep the spirit of this feast in a special way, the evening meal should 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. Use the best China. The meal should be eaten by candlelight.

6. Fashion a pretty centerpiece of evergreen boughs symbolizing everlasting life. Place a statue or picture of St. Nicholas , bishop, in the center. Adorn each side of this centerpiece with 2 red candles to be lit all during the festive evening meal. Religious goods stores often carry a picture of Bishop St. Nicholas and a prayer to him. There is a classical painting often printed on small cards, of St. Nicholas tossing the bags of gold in the window of the home of the 3 daughters who, without this dowry, would have been sold into a life of sin. It can form the basis of a little discussion of the importance of modesty and purity for our children. Note: be careful not to mistake statues and pictures of "Father Christmas" for St. Nicholas.

7. On the back of a holy card of St. Nicholas can be found the following "Prayer 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."

One can write this prayer on the back of a Christmas holy card and place one by each person's place at table to be said after the grace before meals.

8. Following the grace before meal and prayer to St. Nicholas, each person is served a wine glass of "Bishop's Wyn". Its recipe is from the cook book "Cooking for Christ" and is a custom in Holland on the feast of St. Nicholas.

9. While everyone at table sips his Bishops Wyn, the father reads aloud the Gospel from the feast of St. Nicholas, and an account of St. Nicholas' life.

10. Dinner is served by candle light. Since children love traditions and rituals in the home, it is good to serve the same special "St. Nicholas Day Dinner" each year on this Feast. Here's one idea:

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)

Mashed potatoes and gravy Vegetable Dinner rolls

DESSERT: BLACK FOREST "GOOD WORKS" CAKE Can be bought already made / or can be easily baked at home

BEFORE EATING THE "BLACK FOREST "GOOD WORKS" CAKE for dessert, the father of the family reads aloud the following meditation printed out on white cardboard and decorated -- to be used yearly on this Feast:

How our Prayers and Good Works can please God as St. Nicholas' did Our Lord Jesus Christ told us to "let your light shine before men, so that they, seeing your good works, may glorify your heavenly Father."

Thus, we are to understand that we must so live and practice our holy Faith and good works that they may be seen and give public honor to God, and give to others an example of Christ-like charity and love. Some examples of these kinds of public good works might be; attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation; giving immediate help or encouragement to someone who is in need as the Good Samaritan did; and publicly standing with Our Lord in defense of Truth even when others scorn us for doing so.

On the other hand, Jesus also told us that when we fast or do penance, we are not to do it so that men can see it and praise us. Jesus told us not to have a gloomy face like the Pharisees made sure to have when they fasted, for then we have already received the reward we desired - the recognition of men rather than God. Jesus told us there are times when we pray, that we should go to our rooms, i.e., away from the sight of others - and talk privately to God, who sees in secret, and will reward us for it. There are times, too, when acts of charity and kindness are best done secretly for the honor of God and the good of our neighbor. This helps to keep us humble and protects our neighbor from feeling beholden to us.

And so we see that just like St. Nicholas did, we must give both PRIVATE love and service to God and neighbor, as well as PUBLIC. The external acts performed give public honor and glory to God and good example to others. The private and internal acts of worship and love of God and neighbor not only give great honor to God, but they, too, merit grace for us and curb our tendency to vanity and pride.

Tonight, as we enjoy the rich "Good Works" Cake prepared in honor of St. Nicholas, who served God and neighbor so well publicly and privately, may the vivid red cherries on top of this cake be a reminder to US to publicly perform good works, and to practice our Faith without shame. And may the hidden cherries inside the cake - equally as vivid - remind us that our lives must serve and praise God whether men see us or not.

St. Nicholas, pray for us. Amen

ST. NICHOLAS OF MYRA To be read aloud by the father of the family at the St. Nicholas festive evening meal.

St. Nicholas lived in the 4th century. He was born near Myra, a port on the Mediterranean Sea. Nicholas came from one of the city's wealthy merchant families, but he was not spoiled by his family's wealth. His mother and father taught him to love God above all things and to be generous to those in need. Very early Nicholas came to understand that it is only in giving to others that one is truly rich - rich in joy and grace.

Nicholas became a monk in the monastery of Holy Zion near Myra. Later he became the Abbot of this house. When the See of Myra became vacant, the priests and leading people of the city along with the neighboring bishops came together in their cathedral to select a new bishop, they prayed, and asked God to tell them who should be the next bishop. In a dream, God told one of them that they should all pray together the next morning. The person who first came through the cathedral door to pray, should be the next bishop. It was Nicholas who entered the door, as he usually did to come to pray. Immediately St. Nicholas was appointed the Archbishop. He lead his people to great holiness and deep love of God.

Nicholas was persecuted by the Emperor Diocletian for his Faith in Jesus Christ and was put into prison for a time where he suffered greatly for God.

When the heretic Arius attacked the teachings of the Catholic Church grievously by declaring that Jesus was not Divine but only a man, many souls were lost. Almost all the Catholic bishops deserted our Lord, and fell into the error of Arius. The Pope called a Council at Nice and asked the bishops to declare with him that indeed, Jesus is truly both God and man. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, truly God and truly man. There were only three bishops who stood with God and with the Pope. They were St. Athanasius, St. Hilary, and St. Nicholas. When Arius stood arrogantly before the Council and declared that Jesus is NOT God, Nicholas was so angry at this terrible blasphemy, that it is said he struck Arius to silence him. In this act Nicholas reminds us of Our Lord Himself, Who, when the money changers desecrated the holy temple of God in Jerusalem, made a whip and whipped them out of the temple for their terrible sin.

As Bishop of Myra, Nicholas was always aware of his people's needs. He had a special love for children and carefully taught them their Faith. Everywhere the children saw him, he always had little sweets and surprises for them. They loved him dearly.

One day Nicholas heard of a poor father who had three daughters. In order for his daughters to marry, he had to provide them with a dowry. He could not do this because of his poverty. Finally he decided to sell them into slavery and a life of sin. Three times, Nicholas came in the dark of night, and tossed a bag of gold through the windows of the house where the three girls lived. Because of Nicholas' generosity, the three girls were able to marry and were saved from a horrible sinful life.

The characteristic virtues of St. Nicholas were a deep and abiding Faith, a tender charity for all men, and a spirit of mortification and self denial which he is said to have had since childhood. It is especially these virtues which he wants to help us acquire so that we too, will come to love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves.

St. Nicholas was a holy Bishop and a reminder to all Catholics, and especially to children, that God desires to give the fruits and merits earned by the death of His Son on the Cross through His Church - and especially through the hands of His bishops - to all men. It was to His Apostles, the first bishops, that Jesus gave the command to go and teach all nations whatsoever I have commanded you; baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

During Advent, as we await Christ's coming in grace at Christmas and his second coming in glory at the end of the world, we are reminded that He comes to us today through the successors of his Apostles, the bishops of His Church.

The bishops are Our Lord's representatives on earth. They, under the command of the Pope, are to bring all men to Christ. It is the work of Christ's bishops to guard the deposit of the Faith from error, and to transmit it and the Grace of the Sacraments and the Mass to all who are baptized into Christ Jesus. It is the work of the bishops to spread the Gospel news to the whole world.

Today, when too many bishops have turned away from this sacred trust to dally with the errors of the world, St. Nicholas stands as a living, canonized example of what Jesus desires a bishop to be. He is also a living example that despite error, persecution, and apostasy, there will always be, somewhere in the Church, a bishop like Nicholas who lives out his divinely mandated call. We know this, because Jesus promised the Catholic Church, "I will be with you always."

Today, on this holy feast of St. Nicholas, let us meditate on his example and victory, through Jesus Christ over the world, the flesh, and the devil. Let us keep his life and example before our gaze and beg St. Nicholas " to keep us safe amid all dangers so that we may go forward without hindrance on the road of salvation."

Let us remember, too, as we take pleasure in the gifts and treats left for us by St. Nicholas, that these are but a tiny foretaste of the graces God desires to give all His children while they live in this world in order to help them attain His greatest gift of all - which is eternal life with Him in Heaven.

A PRAYER 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 to keep alive their joy in your creation. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Activity Source: St. Michael the Archangel Online

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