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From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

To-day the infant Mary smiles upon the lily offered her in her cradle by the representative of a great Order. The hermits of St. Augustine were being grouped and organized by the Vicar of Christ, when Nicholas was admitted into their family, of which he was soon to become the thaumaturgus. When he died, in 1305, the Roman Pontiffs were beginning their exile at Avignon; and his canonization, deferred for nearly a century and a half through the troubles of the period, marked the close of the lamentable dissensions which followed that exile.

Peace so long lost; peace, of which even the wisest despaired—such was the ardent prayer, the solemn adjuration of Eugenius IV, when, towards the close of his laborious pontificate, he committed the cause of the Church to the humble servant of God placed by him upon her altars. According to the testimony of Sixtus V, the obtaining of this peace was the greatest of Nicholas’s miracles; a miracle which moved the latter Pontiff to order the celebration of the saint’s feast as a double, at a time when days of that rank were much rarer on the calendar than now.

Let us read the legend, which is as simple as the saint’s life itself.

Nicolaus, Tolentinas, a diuturno illius acivitatis domicilio appellatus, in oppido sancti Angeli in Piceno est natus piis parentibus: qui liberorum desiderio Barium voti causa profecti, ibique a sancto Nicolao de futura prole confirmati, quem susceperunt filium de illius nomine appellarunt. Is ab infantia multarum virtutum, sed abstinentiæ in primis specimen dedit. Nam anno vix septimo, beatum ipsum Nicolaum imitatus, complures hebdomadædies jejunare cœpit, eamque postea consuetudinem retinuit, solo pane contentus.

Adulta ætate jam clericali militiæ adscriptus, et canonicus factus, cum quodam die concionatorem Ordinis Eremitarum sancti Augustini de mundi contemptu dicentem audisset, eo sermone inflammatus, statim eumdem Ordinem est ingressus. In quo tam exactam religiosæ vitæ rationem coluit, ut aspero vestitu, verberibus et ferrea catena corpus domans, atque a carne et omni fere obsonio abstinens, cantate, humilitate, patientia, ceterisque virtutibus aliis præluceret.

Orandi assiduum Studium, quamvis satanæ insidiis variæ vexatus, et flagellis interdum cæsus, non intermittebat. Demum sex ante obitum mensibus, singulis noctibus angelicum concentum audivit, cujus suavitate cum jam paradisi gaudia prægustaret, crebro illud apostoli repetebat: Cupio dissolvi, et esse cum Christo. Denique obitus sui diem fratribus prædixit, qui fuit quarto idus septembris. Miraculis multis etiam post mortem damit, quibus rite et ordine cognitis, ab Eugenio Papa quarto in sanctorum numerum est relatus.
Nicholas, called of Tolentino as he lived a long time in that city, was born at the town of St. Angelo in the Marches of Ancona. His pious parents, desirous of having children, went to Bari in fulfilment of a vow. There they were assured by St. Nicholas that they should have a son; whom they therefore called by that saint’s name. From his infancy he was admirable for his virtues, especially for his abstinence; for, when only seven years old he began, in imitation of St. Nicholas, to fast several days a week; which custom he afterwards kept up, contenting himself with bread and water.

While still young he was enrolled in the ranks of the clergy and made a canon; but one day, hearing a sermon on contempt of the world preached by one the hermits of Saint Augustine, he was so struck by it that he immediately joined that Order. As a religious he led a perfect life; subduing his body by rough garments, disciplines, and iron chains; abstaining from meat and almost every kind of nourishment; and showing a bright example to others by his charity, humility, patience, and other virtues.

Very great was his love of prayer, in which he never relaxed, although satan troubled him in various ways and at times scourged him severely. For six months before his death he heard every night the songs of the angels: a foretaste of heavenly delights which caused him frequently to repeat that saying of the apostle: I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ. He foretold to his brethren the day of his death, which was the fourth of the Ides of September. Both before and after death he was famous for miracles; which having been duly proved, he was enrolled among the saints by Pope Eugenius IV.

Good and faithful servant, thou hast entered into the joy of thy Lord. He has broken thy bonds; and from heaven, where thou art now reigning, thou repeatest to us those words which determined the sanctity of thy life on earth: ‘Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world. For the world passeth away, and the concupiscence thereof.’[1] How much a man thus forgetful of earth can do for his fellow-men, is evinced by the gift thou didst receive of solacing all the miseries around thee, and succouring the souls in purgatory. The successor of St. Peter was not deceived, when, in ranking thee among the saints, he counted on thy power in heaven to bring back society from its long continued state of disturbance to the paths of peace. May that word of the beloved disciple which thou hast just echoed to us, sink into our souls as a seed of salvation, and there yield the fruits that it produced in thee: detachment from all temporal things and a longing for eternal realities; that humble simplicity of the soul’s eye which makes life a peaceful journey towards God; and lastly, that purity, which made thee the friend of angels and the favourite of Mary.


[1] St. John, ii. 15, 17.