Byzantine Catholics pay tribute to good Saint Nicholas

On December 6, Orthodox, Catholics and other Christians honor the memory of Saint Nicholas, a 4th century bishop of Myra - an ancient city located in what is now Turkey. Nicholas was known not only as a firm proponent of orthodoxy in the early Church, but is also revered for his holiness and charity. By tradition, Nicholas is believed to have save girls from being sold into slavery and for opposing the death penalty. The story goes that in his city, there was a poor man who had several daughters who lacked sufficient dowries in order to wed. Touched by their plight, Nicholas dropped bags of gold coins down the chimney of the father's home and thus gave the family the means for marrying off the girls. 

Nicholas is revered by various nations and his relics are found in Bari - a town on Italy's Adriatic coast - as well as in Venice. He is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, children, pawnbrokers and students in various countries in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. In the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas is also especially revered. On December 6, festivities include the arrival of Saint Nicholas to Amsterdam on a boat, after which he rides through the towns greeting children and tossing treats. It is Anglicization of the Dutch 'Sinter Klaus' for Saint Nicholas, that gave rise to the American 'Santa Claus' after Dutch colonists of the 1600s planted themselves in what became the United States.

On December 6, in tribute to the generosity exemplified by the holy bishop, Reverend David Hannes of St Michael Byzantine Catholic Parish in Flushing, Michigan, was accompanied by young parishioners before dawn to help with daily preparations for breakfast at the North End Soup Kitchen operated by Catholic Charities in nearby Flint, Michigan. Donning a Santa Claus hat, the pastor oversaw the volunteer work provided by brothers Daniel and Guillermo Barillas and their good friend Christopher Carvounis, all of Flushing. This is the second year that Rev. Hannes was joined by this trio on St Nicholas Day. Other parishioners go on a regular basis to work at the soup kitchen, which provides daily nutritious meals to all comers.

Parishioners have stepped up their donations and volunteer work, joining with other area churches. Among the congregations coordinating volunteer efforts with the Byzantine Catholic parish, are those of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church, St George Syrian Orthodox Church, and St Nicholas Orthodox church, all of the Flint area. Other Christian denominations also contribute regularly of their time and money to the effort to aid and comfort the hungry and homeless. Each year the North End Soup Kitchen, operated by chef John Manse, provides thousands of meals to residents of Flint and Genesee county.

The Byzantine Catholic Church and the Maronite Catholic Church are branches of the worldwide Catholic Church and are in communion with Pope Benedict XVI. Each of them are examples of the rich liturgical and cultural traditions of the Catholic Church.

Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.


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