September 10, 2020: ST. NICHOLAS OF TOLENTINO
September 10, 2020: ST. NICHOLAS OF TOLENTINO, CONFESSOR
“Blessed is that servant,
whom his Lord, when he shall come and knock at the gate, shall find watching.”
(St. Matth, xxiv. 46)
Attend, O Lord, to the humble prayers we present to thee on the solemnity of blessed Nicholas thy Confessor; that we, who have no confidence in our own righteousness, may have the help of his prayers, who was so pleasing to thee. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
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.
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.
Life of St. Nicholas of Tolentino.
This saint received his surname from the town which was his fixed residence for the most considerable part of his life, and in which he died. He was a native of St. Angelo, a town near Fermo, in the Marca of Ancona, and was born about the year 1245. His parents were of mean condition in the world, but rich in virtue, and he was reputed the fruit of their prayers, and a devout pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Nicholas of Bari, in which his mother especially, who was then stricken in years, had earnestly begged of God a son who should faithfully serve him. At his baptism he received the name of his patron, and appeared by his towardly disposition from his infancy to be prevented by an extraordinary share of divine grace. In his childhood he spent whole hours together at his prayers with wonderful application of his mind to God, and he heard the divine word with the utmost eagerness, and with a modesty which charmed all who saw him. He had a tender love for the poor, and used to conduct home those that he met, in order to divide with them whatever he had for his own subsistence. From his infancy he made it a cardinal maxim to renounce all superfluities, practised great mortifications, and from his tender age contracted a habit of fasting three days a week, namely, on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, to which, when he was grown up, he added Mondays, allowing himself on these days only one refection, and that of bread and water. From his very infancy he seemed exempt from the weaknesses and passions to which children are generally liable, his greatest pleasure was in reading good books, in his devotions, and in pious conversation, and his heart was always in the church. His parents neglected nothing that was in their power to improve his genius and happy dispositions. In his studies, as his parts were quick, his apprehensions lively, and his memory and judgment strong, so his progress was rapid.
He was yet a young student, when for his extraordinary merit, he was preferred to a canonry in our Saviour's church. This situation was extremely agreeable to his inclination, as by it he was always employed in the divine service. But he aspired to a state which would allow him to consecrate his whole time and thoughts directly to God, without interruptions or avocations. Whilst he was in this disposition, a sermon, preached by an Austin friar, or hermit, on the vanity of the world, determined him to take a resolution absolutely to quit the world, and to embrace the Order of that holy preacher. This he executed without loss of time, entering himself a religious man in the convent of that Order of Tolentino, a small town in the ecclesiastical state. He went through his novitiate under the direction of the preacher himself, and made his profession before he had completed the eighteenth year of his age.
He was sent successively to several convents of his Order at Recanati, Macerata, and others; in that of Cingole he was ordained priest by the Bishop of Osimo. From which time, if he seemed an angel in his other actions, he appeared like a seraph at the altar; so wonderfully did the divine fire which burned in his breast manifest itself in his countenance, and sweet tears flowed in streams from his eyes. Devout persons strove every day to assist at his mass as at a sacrifice offered by the hands of a saint. In the secret communications which passed between his pure soul and God in contemplation, especially after he had been employed at the altar or in the confessional, he seemed already to enjoy a kind of anticipation of the delights of heaven. The last thirty years of his life he resided at Tolentino, and his zeal for the salvation of souls produced their wonderful fruit. He preached almost every day, and his sermons were always signalized by remarkable conversions. His exhortations, whether in the confessional or in giving catechism, were always such as reached to the heart, and left lasting salutary impressions on those that heard him. What time could be spared from those charitable functions he spent in prayer and contemplation. He was favoured with visions, and wrought several miraculous cures. For the exercise of his virtue he was long afflicted with divers painful distempers. His holy death happened on the 10th of September, in 1306, and he was canonized by Eugenius IV in 1446. His body was buried in the church of his convent at Tolentino, in a chapel in which he used to say mass, and his tomb there is held in veneration.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. V, Edition 1910;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
St. Nicholas of Tolentino, pray for us.