Born of a noble Neapolitan family, Nicholas was named for the great wonder-worker who had once lived in the kingdom. At 8 he was already practicing austerities. He would not eat meat, even on feast days, because he had been favored by a vision of a young man of great majesty who told him to prepare for a lifetime of mortifications in an order that kept perpetual abstinence.
Sent to Bologna for his studies, he met Saint Dominic and was won by him to the new order. He was the companion of Saint Dominic on several of the founder’s journeys to Italy, and warmed his heart at the very source of the new fire which was to mean resurrection to so many souls.
Saint Nicholas of Bari had been noted for his astounding miracles, and his young namesake began following in his footsteps while yet a novice. When on a journey with several companions, he met a woman with a withered arm. Making the Sign of the Cross over her, he cured her of the affliction.
At one time, as he entered his native Bari, he found a woman weeping beside the body of her child, who had been drowned in a well. He asked the woman the name of the child, and being told it was Andrew, he replied, “After this, it’s Nicholas. Nicholas, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, arise!” The little one revived, alive and well. The child of his sister Colette, mute from birth, brought her famous uncle a basket of bread. “Who sent the bread, child?” Nicholas asked her. “My mother,” she replied, and from then on she was cured.
As provincial of the Roman province, Nicholas was wise, prudent, and kind. He established priories in Perugia in 1233 and Trani in 1254. He received many novices and did much of his work among the young religious. Once he was called to the assistance of a novice who had been deceived by the devil and would not go to confession. He showed the young man the true state of his soul and undid the work of the evil one.
Nicholas earned great fame as a preacher. On one occasion, when he was preaching in the cathedral of Brescia, two irreverent young men began disturbing the congregation and soon made such a commotion that Nicholas could not make himself heard. Nicholas left the cathedral to a neighboring hill and there called to the birds to come to listen to him. Like the birds in the similar story of Saint Francis, flocks of feathered creatures fluttered down at his feet and listened attentively while he preached. At the end of the sermon they flew away singing.
After a lifetime of preaching and miracles, Nicholas, forewarned of is death by a visit from a brother who had been dead many years, went happily to receive the reward of the faithful. Miracles continued to occur at his tomb and through his intercession. Among these was the miracle by which life was given to a baby born dead. His parents had promised to name the baby Nicholas if the favor were granted, and to their great joy their child lived (Benedictines, Dorcy).
Born: Giovinazzo near Bari, Naples (year unknown)
Died: died in Perugia, Italy, in 1255
Beatified: Leo XII confirmed his cult in 1828
Representation: In art, Saint Nicholas is presented as a Dominican with a birch and a book (Roeder). He is venerated in Giovinazzo and Perugia, Italy (Roeder).