Today is the feast day of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Nicholas was born at Sant’ Angelo, near Fermo, in the March of Ancona, about 1246. His parents were childless for six years. They prayed at the shrine of St Nicholas of Bari and in thanksgiving christened their son Nicholas.
by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
St. Nicholas was born at St. Angelo in the March of Ancona, but is called Nicholas of Tolentino, from having resided during the last thirty years of his life at the latter place. His parents, Campanus and Amata, were long without issue, and desiring to be blessed with a child, they made a pilgrimage to Bari, to the shrine of the holy bishop St. Nicholas. Having most fervently performed their devotions, they were favored with an apparition of the Saint, who told them that they would have a son, whom they should call Nicholas, and who would become a man of eminent virtue. The truth of this prediction was soon made known. Amata gave birth to a son, who, in accordance with the command of the Saint, was named Nicholas. It was a striking fact, that from his early childhood, Nicholas possessed, in an eminent degree, the spirit of prayer, and when, as is the habit of children, he shed tears, nothing could pacify him more easily than to be told that they would carry him to church. When there he was always quiet, and as he became older, he showed a reverence that was truly angelical. He never spoke a word while in the house of God; never looked curiously about. In his whole conduct there was never seen any childishness or frivolity.
When he was old enough to begin his studies, he displayed remarkable eagerness for gaining knowledge, and made great progress: in consequence of which, he was, when yet quite young, admitted among the Canons of the church of St. Salvador. But one day, hearing a sermon on the words of the Apostle: “Do not love the world, or what is in the world,” delivered by an Augustinian hermit, he perceived an inner desire to leave all that is temporal, and serve God more perfectly in a religious state. Hence he went, immediately after the sermon, to the superior of the above-named Order, and requested to be received as a novice. His request was granted; and fulfilling the prophecy of St. Nicholas, he gave, already in the year of his probation, manifestations of truly eminent virtues, which caused him to be allowed to make his profession earlier than was usual. His constant mortification excited the admiration of all with whom he came in contact. He had heard, when only seven years of age, that his holy patron, St. Nicholas, had, when an infant, abstained every Wednesday and Friday, from his mother’s breast, and had begun immediately to pass the same two days without any food. To these two fast-days, he, in the course of time, added two more. During thirty years, he never touched either flesh or fish; he even abstained from eggs, milk, and fruit, contenting himself with bread, vegetables and water. Even when seriously sick, he deviated not from this austerity. Once when the physicians prescribed meat for him, and the General of the Order commanded him to follow their advice, he obeyed, but having taken a little, he begged to be excused from eating more, saying that he would regain strength without it, which did not fail to happen. Besides these continual fasts, the holy man chastised his innocent body in various ways. He constantly wore a hair-shirt, and scourged himself every night with an iron chain. He took a short rest at night on the bare floor, and never allowed his body the slightest recreation. One day, when someone told him not to be too severe upon himself, he said: “I have not entered the religious state to indulge in my own comfort.”
The Evil One, endeavored vainly to disturb the pious zeal of the servant of God, by terrible visions and cruel ill-treatment; but Nicholas adhered faithfully to the path he had selected. His solicitude for the salvation of souls was indefatigable, and he reformed a great many by his sermons and private discourses. To visit the sick and prisoners and to comfort and assist them, was his greatest pleasure. Not less deep was his compassion for the souls in purgatory, and as he offered daily his prayers, his penances and holy Mass for them, he released a great many from their suffering. To Mary, the divine Mother, he was most fervently devoted from his early childhood, and therefore, he received many and great favors from her. Once, when suffering from a severe fever, he thought that his last hour had arrived, and he was overcome with fear while meditating on the judgments of the Almighty. He appealed to his beloved mother, the Blessed Virgin, who deigned to appear to him, telling him to put aside all fear and be hopeful. She, at the same time, blessed a crust of bread that was lying beside him, and told him to eat of it, which he had no sooner done, than the fever left him. This is the origin of the so-called Tolentine bread, which is blessed on the feast of this Saint, and is often very beneficial to the sick. He himself wrought many miracles in favor of the sick and poor, as may be seen in his more circumstantial biography.
We will only add a few lines about his happy death, the hour of which God had revealed to him, but which was preceded by a painful sickness that lasted six months. During this time, he derived an indescribable consolation from heavenly music which he heard during the night or towards morning. Several times this was heard also by those who were with him. He received the Holy Sacraments with wonderful devotion, shedding many tears. The crucifix, which enclosed a particle of the wood of the holy Cross, he kissed most fervently, praying to the Almighty to assist him in his last combat, and to guard him from all danger by the power of the holy Cross. Besides this, his heart was filled with the desire to behold God in heaven, whom he had loved above everything on earth. Hence he called aloud several times: “Oh! that I might be dissolved and be with Christ!” Shortly before he expired, a holy joy was seen on his countenance, and when asked the cause of it, he replied: “Our Lord, Jesus Christ, leaning upon His beloved mother and St. Augustine, calls me to Him with these words: “Come, thou pious and faithful servant! enter into the joys of thy Lord!” Having said this, he fixed his eyes upon the crucifix, saying: “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” and expired. He is represented with a lily in his hand and a star on his breast. The lily represents the angelic purity and innocence which he kept inviolate; the star, the holy life of the great servant of the Almighty. St. Nicholas was, during his life, a bright star in the church of God, on account of his many and great virtues. His tomb shines yet, in our days, with a divine light, on account of the many and great miracles with which God there honors His faithful servant. (1)
At the hour of his death, which occurred on September 10, 1310, he heard, it is said, the songs which the Angels sing in the presence of their Lord. He died and was buried in the chapel where he was accustomed to offer Holy Mass and say his prayers. He was canonized in 1446 by Pope Eugene IV. Three hundred and one miracles were recognized during the process. His tomb has become renowned by many more, despite the fact that his relics have been lost, save for two arms from which blood still exudes when the Church is menaced by a great danger. This occurred, for example, when the island of Cyprus was taken over by infidels in 1570. The religious of Saint Augustine continue to maintain the service of the large basilica of Saint Nicholas in Tolentino. Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, like Saint Joseph, virginal father of Jesus, has been declared a Patron of the Universal Church.
Image: Nicola da Tolentino, artist: Pietro Perugino, circa 1507. (8)
Research by REGINA Staff