Nicholas was born March 15th, 270, in the city of Patara, Asia Minor, then part of the Roman Empire. He died on December 6th, 343, at the age of 73 in Myra, Roman Empire. His family was Greek Christian and reportedly quite wealthy. Because he lived during a turbulent time in Roman history, written records of St. Nicholas’ life are few and writings of his own were not preserved. However, the essence of this exemplary man survived, and he remains greatly loved throughout the world.
Even as a child, Nicholas was drawn to scripture and prayer. His uncle, also named Nicholas, was Bishop of Patara. He recognized the spiritual maturity and piety of his nephew, and ordained him first a reader and then priest while still a young man. He made a pilgrimage to Egypt and Palestine, and upon his return was appointed Bishop of Myra.
When his parents died, Saint Nicholas distributed his inheritance to the poor and afflicted. Many legends surround his anonymous giving, and here is one example: A man had three daughters, and insufficient money to provide dowries, so the sisters remained unmarried. Their father, feeling he had no choice, considered selling them into servitude. St. Nicholas, learning of their plight, made three secret visits to their home, each time tossing a bag of gold coins through a window opening, one for each daughter’s dowry.
Other such stories exist, evidence that Saint Nicholas was both gentle and kind, a generous man with a heart for the poor. He is Patron Saint of children, sailors, fishermen, merchants, the falsely accused, repentant thieves, and nations such as Russia and Greece.