Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, Confessor

marble statue 'Vision of Saint Nicholas', by Alessandro Algardi, 1651-55, San Nicola da Tolentino, Rome, ItalyArticle

Saint Nicholas was born at Saint Angelo in the March of Ancona, but is called Nicholas of Tolentino, from having resided during the last thirty years of his life at the latter place. His parents, Campanus and Amata, were long without issue, and desiring to be blessed with a child, they made a pilgrimage to Bari, to the shrine of the holy bishop Saint Nicholas. Having most fervently performed their devotions, they were favored with an apparition of the Saint, who told them that they would have a son, whom they should call Nicholas, and who would become a man of eminent virtue. The truth of this prediction was soon made known. Amata gave birth to a son, who, in accordance with the command of the Saint, was named Nicholas. It was a striking fact, that from his early childhood, Nicholas possessed, in an eminent degree, the spirit of prayer, and when, as is the habit of children, he shed tears, nothing could pacify him more easily than to be told that they would carry him to church. When there he was always quiet, and as he became older, he showed a reverence that was truly angelical. He never spoke a word while in the house of God; never looked curiously about. In his whole conduct there was never seen any childishness or frivolity.

When he was old enough to begin his studies, he displayed remarkable eagerness for gaining knowledge, and made great progress: in consequence of which, he was, when yet quite young, admitted among the Canons of the church of Saint Salvator. But one day, hearing a sermon on the words of the Apostle: “Do not love the world, or what is in the world,” delivered by an Augustinian hermit, he perceived an inner desire to leave all that is temporal, and serve God more perfectly in a religious state. Hence he went, immediately after the sermon, to the superior of the above-named Order, and requested to be received as a novice. His request was granted; and fulfilling the prophecy of Saint Nicholas, he gave, already in the year of his probation, manifestations of truly eminent virtues, which caused him to be allowed to make his profession earlier than was usual. His constant mortification excited the admiration of all with whom he came in contact. He had heard, when only seven years of age, that his holy patron, Saint Nicholas, had, when an infant, abstained every Wednesday and Friday, from his mother’s breast, and had begun immediately to pass the same two days without any food. To these two fast-days, he, in the course of time, added two more. During thirty years, he never touched either flesh or fish; he even abstained from eggs, milk, and fruit, contenting himself with bread, vegetables and water. Even when seriously sick, he deviated not from this austerity. Once when the physicians prescribed meat for him, and the General of the Order commanded him to follow their advice, he obeyed, but having taken a little, he begged to be excused from eating more, saying that he would regain strength without it, which did not fail to happen. Besides these continual fasts, the holy man chastised his innocent body in various ways. He constantly wore a hair-shirt, and scourged himself every night with an iron chain. He took a short rest at night on the bare floor, and never allowed his body the slightest recreation. One day, when some one told him not to be too severe upon himself, he said: “I have not entered the religious state to indulge in my own comfort.” The Evil One, endeavored vainly to disturb the pious zeal of the servant of God, by terrible visions and cruel ill-treatment; but Nicholas adhered faithfully to the path he had selected. His solicitude for the salvation of souls was indefatigable, and he reformed a great many by his sermons and private discourses. To visit the sick and prisoners and to comfort and assist them, was his greatest pleasure. Not less deep was his compassion for the souls in purgatory, and as he offered daily his prayers, his penances and holy Mass for them, he released a great many from their suffering. To Mary, the divine Mother, he was most fervently devoted from his early childhood, and therefore, he received many and great favors from her. Once, when suffering from a severe fever, he thought that his last hour had arrived, and he was overcome with fear while meditating on the judgments of the Almighty. He appealed to his beloved mother, the Blessed Virgin, who deigned to appear to him, telling him to* put aside all fear and be hopeful. She, at the same time, blessed a crust of bread that was lying beside him, and told him to eat of it, which he had no sooner done, than the fever left him. This is the origin of the so-called Tolentine bread, which is blessed on the feast of this Saint, and is often very beneficial to the sick. He himself wrought many miracles in favor of the sick and poor, as may be seen in his more circumstantial biography.

We will only add a few lines about his happy death, the hour of which God had revealed to him, but which was preceded by a painful sickness that lasted six months. During this time, he derived an indescribable consolation from heavenly music which he heard during the night or towards morning. Several times this was heard also by those v/ho were with him. He received the Holy Sacraments with wonderful devotion, shedding many tears. The crucifix, which enclosed a particle of the wood of the holy Cross, he kissed most fervently, praying to the Almighty to assist him in ‘his last combat, and to guard him from all danger by the power of the holy Cross. Besides this, his heart was filled with the desire to behold God in heaven, whom he had loved above everything on earth. Hence he called aloud several times: “Oh! that I might be dissolved and be with Christ!” Shortly before he expired, a holy joy was seen on his countenance, and when asked the cause of it, he replied: “Our Lord, Jesus Christ, leaning upon His beloved mother and Saint Augustine, calls me to Him with these words: “Come, thou pious and faithful servant! enter into the joys of thy Lord!” Having said this, he fixed his eyes upon the crucifix, saying: “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” and expired. He is represented with a lily in his hand and a star on his breast. The lily represents the angelic purity and innocence which he kept inviolate; the star, the holy life of the great servant of the Almighty. Saint Nicholas was, during his life, a bright star in the church of God, on account of his many and great virtues. His tomb shines yet, in our days, with a divine light, on account of the many and great miracles with which God there honors His faithful servant.

Practical Considerations

• Meditation on the words: “Do not love the world, or what is in the world, and the sermon on the vanities of the world, drew Nicholas from all temporal things and led him to the path of holiness. If you also considered the vanity of temporal honors, riches and pleasures, you would not seek them so eagerly, nor be so foolishly devoted to them. Reflect within yourself what all that seems great in the world, really is and how long it lasts. “Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity,” said he who had experienced it, Solomon the wise, after he had partaken of all the joys and good things of this world. He found in them only vanity and vexation of spirit, and saw that nothing is stable on this earth. All pleasures, honors and riches vanish, and often so quickly, that they are already gone when we think we are just beginning to enjoy them. And what do they leave? What do they bestow upon man? How much happier than before is he after partaking of them? Truly, not in the least. What they leave behind, what they bestow upon man, is nothing but anxiety of conscience, sadness of heart, and a just fear of divine punishment. “Mourning takes hold of the end of joy,” says the Holy Ghost. And what becomes of the lovers of the world and worldly vanities? Saint Bernard writes: “Tell me, where are the lovers of the world, who not long ago, were among us? What remains of them but dust, ashes and worms? Consider what they are now and what they were. They were men like you; they eat, drank and enjoyed themselves, and were precipitated, in one moment, into the depths of hell!” Is it possible that you believe this, and yet can love the world, and be a slave to the desires of the flesh? If you desire joys and possessions, strive to gain those which are everlasting.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, Confessor”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 4 May 2018. Web. 16 June 2019. <>