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Live Generously, as St. Nicholas Lived

By Susan Ciancio

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas—the fourth century bishop of Myra whom many believe is the model for Santa Claus. Why? Legend has it that St. Nicholas knew the despair of a poor widower with three daughters, who could not afford their dowry and who feared that his poverty would lead them to lives of prostitution.

Nicholas took pity on the man, and on three separate occasions, under the cover of night, he threw a bag of money into his house, thus saving the daughters from this life their father feared.

So today, as we celebrate this generous man, let us not only pray for his intercession, but let us work toward becoming more like him.

How can we do that? We can use his example to give generously—of our time, our love, our goods, and our prayers.

Give generously of your time.

Time is our most precious commodity, and how we use it matters. The time leading up to Christmas can be incredibly hectic and stressful. Many would say that it goes too fast. Though we can’t slow down time, we can certainly use it wisely. We can make the most of our days by spending time with those we love and with those who need friendship and companionship. This Advent season, remember the people who feel lonely, who are grieving the loss of a loved one, who are going through an unplanned pregnancy alone, or who have no one to celebrate this joyous time with. Then give them a call, stop by their house, take them to lunch, or invite them to your house to spend time with your family.

Give generously of your love.

To truly love someone is to want only good for them. The Catholic Church teaches, “The perfection of the moral good consists in man’s being moved to the good not only by his will but also by his ‘heart.’” Examine your heart this Advent season. What selfless actions can you do out of love for someone else? Who in your life needs kindness, needs love, or needs a friend? Whom do you need to forgive? Search for the answers and then take action with great love.

Give generously of your goods.

This time of year highlights the fact that there are many people who cannot afford presents under the tree. They may not even be able to afford nourishing food. It can be incredibly stressful for them, especially if they have children. Giving trees are ubiquitous at churches, at stores, and in many other places. Food banks are also overwhelmed this time of year and need donations. Choose a way to give to make someone else’s Christmas brighter. Involve your children so they learn the importance of generosity, and give what you can so that others can enjoy this time of year.

Give generously of your prayers.

No matter our financial, emotional, or physical status in life, prayer is something we can all give. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “Prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit.” Take time to pray for the lonely, for the poor, for the sick, and for those who may feel forgotten. Our prayers do make a difference.

St. Nicholas taught us about generosity and about love for our fellow human beings. Let us use his example to show others that they are valuable, not just today but every day of the year.