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Ordinary Time: September 10th
Wednesday of the Twenty-Third Week of Ordinary Time
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Old Calendar: St. Nicholas of Tolentino, confessor; St. Pulcheria (Hist)
St. Nicholas of Tolentino, a native of Sant' Angelo, in the diocese of Fermo, was born about the year 1245. As a young man, but already endowed with a canon's stall, he was one day greatly affected by a sermon preached by a Hermit of St. Augustine and decided to enter this newly-founded Order. At first he lived at the hermitage of Pesaro and then at Tolentino where he died in 1305. His whole life was remarkable for its great austerity which was inspired by his great love of the cross. According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is his feast.
Historically today is the feast of St. Pulcheria, daughter of the Byzantine emperor Arcadius (395-408), was coregent and adviser of her brother Theodosius the Younger (408-450). Throughout her life she defended the Faith against various heresies. After giving away her wealth to the poor and to the Church, she died peacefully at the age of fifty-four in the year 453.
St. Nicholas of Tolentino
This Nicholas was born in answer to his mother's prayers. Childless and in middle age, she had made a pilgrimage with her husband to the shrine of St. Nicholas of Bari to ask for a son whom she promised to dedicate to God's service. When her wish was granted, she named the boy Nicholas and he soon gave unusual signs of saintliness. Already at seven he would hide away in a nearby cave and pray there like the hermits whom he had observed in the mountains.
As soon as he was old enough he was received into the Order of Augustinian friars. 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. He was ordained in 1271 and said his first Mass with exceptional fervor; thereafter, whenever he celebrated the holy Mystery he seemed aglow with the fire of his love. His preaching, instructions and work in the confessional brought about numerous conversions, and his many miracles were responsible for more, yet he was careful not to take any credit for these miracles. "Say nothing of this," he would insist, "give thanks to God, not to me. I am only a vessel of clay, a poor sinner."
He spent the last thirty years of his life in Tolentino, where the Guelfs and the Ghibellines were in constant strife. Nicholas saw only one remedy to the violence: street preaching, and the success of this apostolic work was astounding. "He spoke of the things of heaven," says his biographer St. Antonine. "Sweetly he preached the divine word, and the words that came from his lips fell like flames of fire. Among his hearers could be seen the tears and heard the sighs of people detesting their sins and repenting of their past lives."
During the last years of his life St. Nicholas was bedridden and suffered grievously. He died surrounded by his community. In 1345 a lay Brother cut off the arms of his body intending to take them to Germany as relics, and the friars then hid his body to prevent further attempts of this kind. It has not been found to this day, but the arms have been preserved. It is recorded that they have bled on several occasions, usually, it is said, before some calamity that befell the Church or the world.
Excerpted from A Saint A Day
by Berchman's Bittle, O.F.M. Cap.Patron:
Lost souls; mariners; infants; animals; dying people; souls in purgatory.Symbols:
Crucifix and wreath of lilies; flaming star; doves and dish; partridge; fountain; basket with bread rolls; bread; lily; man in black Augustinian habit holding one of the symbols; star above Augustinian; Augustinian with star on breast.Things to Do:
- A single phrase from a sermon effected St. Nicholas' conversion and made him a saint. An excellent example of the power of God's word! Christ once said, "Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." In other terms: Bread nourishes one's physical life, the word of God nourishes one's supernatural life. Recall the parable of the sower about the seed that fell on good ground and produced abundant returns-a parable explained by Jesus Himself. The seed is the word of God. This point is particularly important. The word of God is seed containing limitless vitality. It does not yet live, but requires the good earth to burst into life, to become a living, growing plant. Spend some time today meditating on the words of the Gospel and praying that God will bring similar fruit from your life and make you a saint.
- Read another account of St. Nicholas' life here.
- St. Nicholas had a great love for the Holy Souls. He would offer Mass, pray and do penance for them so they could more quickly enter Heaven. Why not offer up a Mass or pray the Rosary today.
- The Convento di San Nicola located in the center of the beautiful town of Tolentino is a very popular place of pilgrimage. It has one of the most important fresco cycles of the 1300s, painted by the Master of Tolentino. There are also many excellent paintings in the elegant baroque basilica, a memorable cloister, the cell where St. Nicholas of Tolentino lived, and an interesting museum containing some fine ceramics. St. Nicholas is buried in the crypt. If you read Italian or if you just like to look at photographs you might find this site about the Basilica of St. Nicholas interesting.
“Thanks to you, the scandals stimulated by the evil spirit were suppressed. Thanks to your efforts, the whole earth today is united in the confession of the same Faith.”
With these words, Pope St. Leo the Great paid tribute to Empress Pulcheria (399-453), grand-daughter of Theodosius. She was baptized by St. John Chrysostom in Constantinople and while still very young, she made a vow of virginity along with her two younger sisters.
Six years after her father, Arcadius, died, the Senate proclaimed her Augusta (empress), and named her regent of her younger brother Theodosius II. Pulcheria was 15 years old when she assumed the full responsibility of government. It is rare in History to find so much prudence joined with such great precocity.
At age 20, Theodosius married Athenais, daughter of a pagan philosopher of Athens. His wife, who received the name Eudoxia when she was baptized, sought to weaken Pulcheria’s influence over the Emperor. Eudoxia ended by persecuting her sister-in-law and favoring the heresy of Nestorius, while St. Pulcheria supported St. Cyril of Alexandria against the heretic. Pulcheria was removed from power and withdrew from the court.
In 441 Eudoxia was exiled because of her infidelity to the Emperor, and Pulcheria returned. Theodosius was supporting the heresy of the monk Eutyches, but Pulcheria convinced him to withdraw it and follow St. Leo the Great.
In 450 Theodosius died. Pulcheria was again proclaimed Empress. One year later the Council of Chalcedon (451) - she assisted at its third session - condemned Monophysism, the heresy of Eutyches. In a letter to the Empress Pulcheria, St. Leo credited her with overcoming the heresies of Nestorius and Euthyches.
On her return from exile, she found the Empire threatened by Attila. She agreed to marry General Marcian to maintain the stability of the Empire on the condition that he respect her vow of virginity. Together they governed the Empire. Marcian persecuted the Nestorians and followers of Eutyches, recalled the Catholic Bishops who had been exiled by Theodosius, and kept Attila outside the boundaries of the Empire. St. Pulcheria died in 453 at age 54.
Excerpted from Tradition in ActionThings to Do: