Happy Feast Day to all in Galway as we celebrate the solemnity of our Patron Saint today, 6th December.
Saint Nicholas lived in the fourth century AD and he was born in Myra, in what is now Turkey. Myra is a girls name that is more popular in Galway than elsewhere as parents sought to name their daughters after St Nicholas. Nicholas became the Bishop of Myra and he courageously witnessed to his faith. He was imprisoned during the persecution of Diocletian. He is said to have been present at the Council of Nicaea in 325. That Church Council had to discern how to teach the faith amidst the challenges coming from the Arian heresy. Arius held that the Son was less than the Father, and so the Council needed to find the right words to defend the doctrine of the Trinity. It described the Son as homoousios with the Father, which was translated into Latin as consubstantialis, and which we now translate into English as ‘consubstantial’. Saint Nicholas is said to have confronted the heretic Arius at the Council and hit him a slap [Do not try this at home!], such was his zeal for the true faith.
But Saint Nicholas is most remembered for his great charity. He was renowned for his many works of charity, but especially for giving three bags of gold, which he passed into a building to three girls in need so that they would have the dowry they needed to get them out of a situation of degradation.
He is the Patron Saint of sailors and many Churches around the world near the coast are dedicated to him. Devotion to him was brought into Galway by sailors because of this being a port town and he was made Patron of the Collegiate Church here when it was built in the fourteenth century. Later, when the new Catholic Cathedral was opened in 1965, he was named Patron alongside Our Lady Assumed into Heaven.
Saint Nicholas - a Saint who combined charity and clarity!