Saint Nicholas of Tolentine


Feast:  September 10th

Patron of Holy Souls in Purgatory

A Model of Discipleship

Saint Nicholas of Tolentine is the first member of the Order of Saint Augustine to be canonized (1446).  He was born in 1245 in the town of Castel Sant’Angelo.  As a young boy he was greatly influenced by the preaching of an Augustinian Friar which led to him requesting entrance into the Order[1] just three years after the Grand Union, or a time in which the Church was consolidating a number of separate religious communities into the single Order of Saint Augustine.  This was a period of great transition for the Order as various groups of once separate hermits were adjusting to a new style of life.[2]

Saint Nicholas is perhaps best known for his last thirty years spent in Tolentino, where he served principally as a confessor and devoted servant of the poor and the sick.  He was also known for his service to the brothers in the monastery and role model of charity to all who visited.  People came to known him as a man of great patience and compassion toward the needy and afflicted and hundreds chose him as their regular confessor.  Within the Order his devotion to prayer and penance won the admiration of the brothers.  He was particularly known for his devotion to the faithful departed, earning him the title Patron of the Souls in Purgatory and as a role model of balancing the contemplative dimensions of religious life with apostolic activity.

He is also a model of innovation in a time of a rapidly changing Church.  During his time in Tolentino he would visit homes and shops to beg for his community’s livelihood and to provide for the poor of the town, which brought him into daily contact with the people and with opportunities to to offer works of instruction and comfort.  Further, he formed a network of lay helpers to multiply outreach to the poor of the town.[2]  

Saint Nicholas was one of three patron saints that Saint Rita (who was alive when Saint Nicholas canonized) would rely heavily on the prayers of Saint Nicholas throughout her life.

Saint Nicholas Understands Us

We live in a busy world.  On one hand we are called to go out into the world to proclaim the Gospel as we live family life, fulfill our duties at work, participate in parish life, support various ministries, and fulfill civic duties.  At the same time we must be grounded in prayer.  We all struggle within finding the right balance in our life.  Through Saint Nicholas of Tolentine we have a friend who can pray for us.

We also live in a time when the Church is in a period of change.  On the one hand we are still in the process of implementing the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.  On the other hand, people are leaving the Church at unprecedented rates while the faithful are aging and increasingly not able to attend Church.  These trends have required lay and ordained ministers alike to innovate traditional forms of ministry to reach those who are no longer able to come to Church.  Last, vocations to ordained ministry are rapidly decreasing as well which has generated a renewal in lay apostolates and lay-led ministries.  

In Saint Nicholas of Tolentine we have a Saint who can pray for us as we follow his model of faithful outreach to those who are physically away from the Church for one reason or another.  Further, we have a Saint who can pray for us as we find new ways to incorporate and empower the laity in the mission of the Church.

[1] Fr. Michael Di Gregorio, OSA, The Precious Pearl: The Story of Saint Rita of Cascia (Staten Island, NY: Fathers and Brothers of the Society of St. Paul, 2003), Kindle Edition, Location 310.

[2] Fr. Michael Di Gregorio, OSA, Hearts on Fire (Villanova, PA: Brothers of the Order of the Hermits of Saint Augustine, 2018), Kindle Edition, 187-189.


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