Where Was Nicholas?

Patron Saint of Sailors
Saint Nicholas, Protector of Sailors
From Saints Lives & Illuminations, by Ruth Sanderson, Eerdmans, 2003 Purchase from amazon.com, amazon.ca, or amazon.co.uk
Used by permission

When all the bishops were gathered together in Nicaea to decide the great question threatening to split the early church, there were many long speeches. Such meetings can be very tiring. Once during dinner, it looked as if Bishop Nicholas had dozed off, weary of the whole thing and unable to stay awake.

As he slept, Nicholas heard voices calling his name, and, leaving his sleeping body leaning on the table, he followed the voices. After traveling a long way, he came to a place in the middle of the sea. A mighty storm raged, putting a ship in great danger. The sails were shredded and the masts broken as if they were toothpicks. Sailors, clinging to the ship, cried to Nicholas for help.

Nicholas raised his hands" the waves calmed and thunder and lightning stopped. The sun came out over a sea once again calm. The grateful sailors thanked God for their rescue. Nicholas blessed the sailors and, returned.

In Nicaea, awakened at table, Nicholas yawned and rubbed his eyes. Seeing he was now awake, the other bishops said, "So much has happened while you slept, Nicholas. We have missed you, our Brother." "Yes indeed," said Nicholas. "A ship has been saved and many sailors rescued." The bishops, completely unaware of what had happened, thought Nicholas meant that the church was a ship and that the Council had saved the church and its people.

Some accounts list Nicholas as present at the Council of Nicaea and some do not. Some say that his name was not on some lists because he was thrown in jail. Others say his name is missing because he was sleeping and missed some of the Council's deliberations. Was he both there and not there? What do you think?

This tale is much later than the others related to Nicholas at Nicaea. Though set at the Council of Nicaea, it actually comes from a misunderstanding of a Russian tale from about two centuries ago and has nothing to do with the Council of Nicaea.

back to top