|St Nicholas of Tolentino (1245-1305)|
Nicholas was born to poor parents who lived not far from Tolentine and who, until his birth, had been childless. They went as pilgrims to Bari, in southern Italy, to pray at the shrine of St Nicholas to be blessed with a child. Shortly after their return home, to their great joy, a son was born to whom they gave the name Nicholas.
It seems that Nicholas felt called to the religious life from his earliest years. Having met the Prior of the Augustinian community in Tolentine, he applied to be accepted in the local monastery as a novice. He passed through the years of formation and study and in the year 1270 he was ordained a priest.
Shortly after his ordination, he had a vivid dream in which a deceased fellow Augustinian appeared to him and begged his help: “I am suffering in these flames, by which the good God, accepting my repentance, is mercifully purifying me. I beg you to celebrate a Mass of the Dead for me, so that I may be freed from my torments”.
Fr. Nicholas spent the night in prayer and next day he asked the Prior for permission to offer his Mass for a week on behalf of the suffering souls in Purgatory. He did so and soon afterwards the same priest appeared to him again and assured him that he and many other souls had been freed from Purgatory.
This incident convinced Nicholas of the need to pray incessantly for the souls in Purgatory, and to offer the sacrifice of the Mass for this purpose. It remained the outstanding characteristic of his spirituality. In 1275 he was appointed to the community in Tolentine and he remained there until his death on Sept. 10th 1305.
He was much sought after as a confessor and spiritual director but it was as an advocate for the souls in Purgatory that he is now remembered, and is invoked as their patron. He was the first Augustinian to be canonised as a saint , in 1446, and 700 years after his death his remains are still venerated in the basilica dedicated in his honour in Tolentine. To very many he is revered as the Patron of the Holy Souls.
Devotion to St. Nicholas of Tolentine.
He is invoked mainly as an advocate for the souls in Purgatory, especially during Lent and during the month of November. In many Augustinian churches, there are weekly devotions to St Nicholas on behalf of the suffering souls. The whole church dedicates itself to prayer on their behalf on 2nd November each year, the Commemoration of all the faithful departed, and that day has special significance for the devotees of St Nicholas of Tolentine.
Blessing of the Bread of St. Nicholas of Tolentine
When St Nicholas was very ill, it is related in the account of his life that the Blessed Virgin appeared to him in a vision and told him to procure a little bread and eat it moistened with water, and he would be cured. The saint did so and he was instantly restored to health. From this story the blessed bread of St Nicholas had its origin.
During the life of St Nicholas he too dipped bread in water to cure the sick of various illnesses. In faith we ask for Nicholas’ intercession for our illnesses and those of our loved ones.
Blessing the Bread of St. Nicholas
Lord Jesus Christ, you multiplied the loaves to feed a hungry throng. We ask you to bless + this bread. May it become spiritual nourishment for those who eat it, in honour of St Nicholas of Tolentine, and be beneficial to the health of all who place their trust in you, who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen
Aided by the Prayers of St Nicholas, let us pray to Christ who gives us the hope that our mortal bodies will become like his in glory.
1.Christ, Son of the living God, you raised your friend Lazarus from the dead: grant life and glory to the faithful departed, redeemed by your precious blood.
2.Compassionate Saviour, you wiped away all tears when you gave back to the widow of Naim her only son: comfort those who mourn because the one they love has died.
3. Lord our God, in St Nicholas you have given us an example of faith, hope and love: send into our hearts your Holy Spirit with his many gifts.
4.Father of holiness, you have given us this new day, on which we celebrate the memory of St Nicholas: may we use it in contemplating his goodness, and in working like him to do your will, in the circumstances of our daily lives.
5. Father, your Son has promised a hundredfold and eternal life to those who leave all things and follow him: may we always be true to our baptism (and our religious vows), and show forth the living power of the Gospel.
6. Lord, you worked miracles of healing and comfort at the hands of St Nicholas: hear all who cry to you in distress, in sickness and in every danger of soul and body, and save them in your mercy.
Almighty God, your glory shone upon the Church through the holiness and miracles of St Nicholas of Tolentine. In answer to his prayers keep your holy people in peace and unity. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen