Monday, March 24, 2014


MIRACLE MONK. An almost lifesize image of San Nicolas de Tolentino from a Pampanga town is shown dressed, and ready for his procession, in this ca. 1970s photo,

San Nicolas de Tolentino (St. Nicholas of Tolentine) is a popular patron of many Philippine towns and cities in the Philippines--like San Nicolas (Ilocos Norte, Pangasinan, Batangas), Macabebe (Pampanga), Talisay (Cebu),  Banton (Romblon), Dimlao (Bohol) and Surigao City, among others. The Recollect missionaries, who came to the Philippines in May 1606, are credited with propagating the devotion to this thaumaturgist. The Augustinian Recollect Province in the Philippines is known as the province of San Nicolas de Tolentino.

Born in 1245 in Sant'Angelo, San Nicolas got his name from St. Nicholas of Myra, at whose shrine his parents prayed to have a child. Nicholas became a monk at 18, and was ordained as a priest,  seven years later. He became a well-known preacher and a confessor.

Around 1274, he was sent to Tolentino, near his birthplace. The town suffered from a civil feud between the Guelphs, who supported the pope, and Ghibellines, who supported the Holy Roman Emperor, in their struggle for control of Italy. Nicolas was primarily a pastor to his flock, tending the poor and the criminals.

As a wonder worker, he is said to have cured the sick with bread over which he had prayed to Mary, the mother of God. The "panecillos de saniculas", in the Philippines, is a cookie made from arrowroot, which is often given to sick people, in the belief that it will improve their wellness. The cookies undergo a ritual blessing before they are distributed.

San Nicolas died in 1305 after a long illness and was canonized by Pope Eugene IV in 1446. His iconography shows him wearing the black habit of the Hermits of Saint Augustine, with a star above him or on his breast. Some show his habit studded with stars. His emblems include a cross and a plate on which a roasted partridge was miraculously revived to life.

He is involed against fires and is the patron saint of the dying, sick animals, souls in Purgatory, babies and mothers. His Feast Day is September 10.

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