Prayer Service for the Feast of St. Nicholas: First Week of Advent


This prayer service will help students learn about St. Nicholas and his connection to the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas.

By Jean Grant

THE READINGS, FROM LECTIONARY 177, FOR DEC. 6, CAN BE FOUND ONLINE ON THE WEBSITE FOR THE UNITED STATES CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS.

Leader: Nicholas was raised to be a devout Catholic. His parents were wealthy. He used all the money inherited from his parents for the poor, the needy, and the sick. It always seemed to be his personal mission to help children, be generous, and pray for sailors and ships. He was made Bishop of Myra while a young man.

Reader 1: (Isaiah 25:6-10A)

Leader: Roman Emperor Diocletian hated Christians. He ordered that even the kind Nicholas should be exiled and imprisoned. In a strange twist, under his reign of terror, there were more bishops, priests, and deacons in jail than criminals for lack of room. Nicholas was able to attend the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. After he died in A.D. 343 in Myra on December 6th Nicholas was buried in the Cathedral Church, where an unusual relic called “manna” formed in his grave.

Reader 2: (Psalm 23:1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; Beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.
ALL: I SHALL LIVE IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE.

He guides me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side. With your rod and your staff that give me courage.
ALL: I SHALL LIVE IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE.

You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; You anoint my head with oil; My cup overflows.
ALL: I SHALL LIVE IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE.

Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.
ALL: I SHALL LIVE IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE.

Leader: Many legends and stories sprang up about St. Nicholas and his generosity. The story most often repeated is about three young girls.  Their father didn’t have money for a dowry so they could wed. Without that money the girls would be killed. As a secret gift-giver, if shoes were left out for him at night, St. Nicholas would put coins, candy, or other small treats in them. To provide the dowry for the three women, he threw a purse of money in the window on three consecutive nights, or three consecutive years as the stories go.  Sometimes it is said he threw the bag of money down a chimney (mirroring stories of Santa Claus coming down the chimney and filling stockings hung there). Stockings were often filled with three oranges or three bags of gold.

Reader 3: (Matthew 15:29-37) The numbers 3 and 7 are meaningful. We reflect on Three persons in one God in the Trinity, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, it is believed Jesus was 33 when he died on the cross, Jesus’ ministry was 3 years long, and there were three crosses on Calvary.  There are the 7 sacraments given to us by Jesus, the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit, 7 deadly sins, 7 joys, 7 sorrows of Our Lady. Seven is also the symbolic number of charity, grace, and the Holy Spirit.

FOLLOWING THIS SERVICE, CREATE YOUR OWN “WORD CLOUD” WITH “ST. NICHOLAS.” HIS NAME SHOULD BE THE LARGEST WORDS ON THE PAGE. (USE 12 X 18 CONSTRUCTION PAPER IN RED TO MATCH THE VESTMENTS WORN BY ST. NICHOLAS.) THEN PUT NUMEROUS, VARIOUS-SIZED WORDS THAT DESCRIBE HIS LIFE, HIS GENEROSITY, AND THE TRADITIONS ATTRIBUTED TO HIM RANDOMLY AROUND HIS NAME. DECORATE WITH A CHRISTMAS BORDER. 

Download a printable version of this prayer service             

Jean Grant is a retired teacher from St. Charles, Missouri.

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