Stories of Saints and Martyrs - Jetta S. Wolff

St. Nicholas

Dec. 6; A. D. 343

There never lived a Christian Bishop more honoured and beloved than the good St. Nicholas; never one kinder of heart, or more helpful to all persons who were poor or in trouble. His parents had been very rich, and he was still quite a boy when both his father and mother died, leaving to him all their wealth. But even at that early age Nicholas was decided to "sell all he had and give to the poor." He said he wanted little for his own life, and when, by-and-by, he became a Priest, he would go about barefoot, sleep on a plank of wood for a bed, and neither eat meat nor drink wine. He said he was able to do without the good things of earth, and was happy if he could save their cost in order to give the more to those that were in need. But in all that he did Nicholas showed himself to be wise as well as kind, and he would never give to mere beggars, or to people who were lazy and did not try to work. He would take great pains to find out who were in real want; then he gave all the help he could.

One day Nicholas heard of a man, once rich, who had lost all his money and fallen into great distress. This man had three daughters, all very beautiful. But they had never learnt to work, and now their poor father feared they would have to beg their bread in the streets, and he was quite heart-broken.

One night it happened that the three girls were sleeping, and the poor father sitting near the open window of his house weeping bitter tears. Suddenly a bag of gold was thrown in. As soon as the father had overcome his surprise, he rushed out to see who could have done this. But there was no one anywhere to be found. The next night another bag was thrown through the window. The father heard no sound, and though he rushed out at once this time, he could see no one near. The third night the father sat again at his window; he had quite made up his mind that if another bag of money were thrown in, he would find out who threw it. He strained his eyes through the darkness, and yes, in a little while there he saw a man coming on tip-toe under the shadow of the wall. He darted out and threw himself upon his knees before St. Nicholas.

When St. Nicholas had known of the poor man's trouble, he had taken a sum of money and divided it into three portions, to be the dowry of the three daughters. He knew their father would put the money by and arrange it in such a way for his girls, as that they would each always have a little to live on, and be spared the shame of beggary. But he was sorry to be found out in his good deed. He loved rather to "do his alms in secret "and to be rewarded only "of His FATHER in heaven," not by the praise of men.

At one time St. Nicholas wished to go and live in a desert so as to be away from the world with its trials and temptations. But he had a dream in which he thought he heard a voice telling him to stay among the people, and continue to do good in the world.

There are many stories of all he did. Once, we are told, he saved a number of little children from death in a time of war and famine, when a cruel inn-keeper was about to slay them and offer their flesh as meat to the starving people.

At another time he was in a great storm on the sea. No one thought the ship could be saved. But St. Nicholas remained calm and fearless, and prayed earnestly to GOD The wind went down, the sea grew quiet. Every one said the calm was sent in reply to the prayers of the good Christian Priest, and from that day he was looked upon as a patron saint of sailors.

So through his whole life he went about doing good and helping others; and so he is said to come to you children at Christmas-time, and make you happy for that joyous season. For the Santa Claus who is supposed to steal down the chimney on the night of JESUS' birth, and fill your stockings with just what you happen to want or like best, was once a real living man, who spent his life and wealth, not exactly in filling the stockings! but in giving what they most needed to people in distress, and giving it whenever he could in secret.

"Santa" means saint, as no doubt you know; "Claus" is the short for Nicolaus, which is the German way of writing Nicholas. He conquered by his generous character.

The special friend of little children, of maidens in distress, of sailors tossing on the sea, the supposed donor of all our Christmas presents, good Santa Claus will live in our hearts and in the hearts of our children to all time, as, in his own day, he lived in the hearts of those who knew him or his good deeds. He will live to all time in the memory of man on earth below, to all eternity in heaven with the GOD he so faithfully served.