St. Nicholas

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St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra

St. Nicholas, whom the Almighty honored with numberless miracles, was born at Patara, in Lycia, of rich and pious parents, who having lived a long time without issue, at last, after many prayers, were rejoiced by the Lord with a son. It was a remarkable fact that Nicholas, when an infant, on Wednesdays and Fridays, refused to take nourishment from his mother’s breast until nightfall; and this custom of partaking of no food on those days, he observed as long as he lived. When sent to school, he carefully avoided all interaction young men, and still more with the other sex. He shunned all occasions of evil, chastised his body by watching, fasting, wearing a penitential girdle, and read only such books as aided him to acquire virtue and knowledge. In this manner he preserved his innocence inviolate through all dangers. Having made great progress in virtue and knowledge, he was ordained priest by the bishop of Myra, who was his God-father. As he felt himself obliged by the sacredness of his station to strive to attain greater virtue, he redoubled his austerities, his fervor in prayer, and his zeal in doing good. The rich inheritance which came into his possession after the death of his parents, was employed only to relieve and comfort the needy.  Continue reading

Fourth Council of Toledo

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Fourth Council of Toledo

The Fourth Council of Toledo occurred in 633. It was held at the church of Saint Leocadia in Toledo.

Under the presidency of the noted St. Isidore of Seville, the council regulated many matters of discipline, decreed uniformity of liturgy throughout the Visigothic kingdom and took stringent measures against baptized Jews who had apostate from the Faith.

At this council, commenced on 5 December 633, all the bishops of Iberian Kingdoms were in attendance. Isidore, though elderly, presided over its deliberations, and was the originator of most of its enactments.

The council expressed with tolerable accuracy the mind and influence of Isidore. The position and deference granted to the Visigothic king were remarkable. The Church is free and independent, yet bound in solemn allegiance to the acknowledged king: nothing is said of allegiance to the Supreme Pontiff in Rome.

It was at the Fourth National Council of Toledo and through his influence that a decree was promulgated commanding and requiring all bishops to establish seminaries in their cathedral cities, along the lines of the school associated with Isidore already existing at Seville. Within his own jurisdiction he had availed himself of the resources of education to counteract the growing influence of Gothic barbarism. His was the quickening spirit that animated the educational movement of which Seville was the centre. The study of Greek and Hebrew as well as the liberal arts, was prescribed. Interest in law and medicine was also encouraged. Through the authority of the fourth council this policy of education was made obligatory upon all the bishops of the kingdom.

Saint Sabas

Saint Sabas

Patriarchal Abbot in Palestine
(439-531)

Saint Sabas, one of the most renowned patriarchs of the monks of Palestine, was born in the year 439, near Caesarea. At the age of fifteen, in the absence of his parents, he suffered under the conduct of an uncle, and weary of the world’s problems decided to forsake the world and enter a monastery not far from his family home. After he had spent ten years in religious life, his two uncles and his parents attempted to persuade him to leave the monastery to which he had migrated in Palestine. He replied: Do you want me to be a deserter, leaving God after placing myself in His service? If those who abandon the militia of earthly kings are severely punished, what chastisement would I not deserve if I abandoned that of the King of heaven?

When he was thirty years old, desiring greater solitude, he began to live an angelic life so far above nature that he seemed no longer to have a body. The young sage, as he was called by Saint Euthymius, Abbot of a nearby monastery, dwelt in a cavern on a mountain near Jerusalem, where he prayed, sang Psalms and wove baskets of palm branches. He was forty-five years old when he began to direct those who came to live as hermits, as he did, and he gave each of them a place to build a cell; soon this was the largest monastery of Palestine. He left the region when certain agitators complained of him, for he considered himself incapable of maintaining good discipline. The Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sallustus, did not easily credit the complaints, and instead ordained Sabas a priest, that he might say Mass for his disciples — for they had been displeased by his lack of desire for that honor. He was at that time fifty-three years old. The Patriarch presented him to them as their father, whom they should obey and honor, and made him Superior of all the Palestine monasteries. But several monks remained obstinate, and Saint Sabas again went elsewhere, to a cavern near Scythopolis.

As the years passed, he was in charge of seven monasteries; but his influence was not limited to Palestine. The heresies afflicting religion were being sustained by the emperor of Constantinople, who had exiled the Catholic Patriarch of that city, Elias. Saint Sabas converted the one who had replaced Elias, and wrote to the emperor that he should cease to persecute the Church of Jerusalem, and to impose taxes on the cities of Palestine which they were unable to pay. In effect, the people were reduced to extreme misery. The emperor died soon afterwards, and the pious Justin replaced him. Justin restored the true faith by an edict and recalled the exiles, re-establishing the exiled prelates in their sees.

When Saint Sabas was ninety-one years old, he made the long journey to Constantinople to ask Justinian, successor to Justin, not to act with severity against the province of Palestine, where a revolt had occurred by the non-submission of a group of Samaritans. The emperor honored him highly and wished to endow his monasteries with wealth, but the holy Patriarch asked him to use the riches he was offering to build a hospice for pilgrims in Jerusalem, to decorate the unfinished Church of the Blessed Virgin, to build a fortress where the monks could take refuge when barbarians invaded the land, and finally, to re-establish preaching of the true Faith, by edicts proscribing the various errors being propagated. The holy Abbot lived to be ninety-two years old, and died in 531, in the arms of the monks of his first monastery.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 14