The Boy Bishop

When Nicholas was just a teen, both of his parents died. Alone in the world, he decided to join the monastery of his uncle. Before he did so, Nicholas gave away his great wealth. You may know the famous story of Nicholas throwing money into the window of three young women whose family could not afford to have them get married. Most likely this happened about that time. Nicholas sought a quiet life in the monastery, but first he took a trip to the Holy Land. It was on his return that he became a ‘boy bishop’, a term used for many celebrations in centuries to come.

Ships had always been part of Nicholas’ life. As a small boy in Patara, he watched merchant ships gracefully come and go in the harbor. Now he stood aboard one bound also for Patara. After months in the Holy Land, Nicholas was coming home, back to the monastery, to begin his adult life of prayer and solitude.

The trip had been uneventful, but now ominous clouds began to gather on the horizon.

“I don’t like the looks of this,” the captain said, and started shouting order to the sailors to ready the ship for the worst.

The winds began to rise and soon the little ship was buffeted and thrashed about in a storm. Two days and two nights passed, but who could tell day from night? Waves crashed and rolled over the railings. The terrified sailors could do very little to save their passengers, their ship or themselves. Full of fear, Nicholas did what he could do: he prayed. Soon the sailors joined him.

Before dawn of the third day, the storm began to subside.

“We survived!” a bewhiskered sailor said. “And we have that young priest to thank. It was his prayers that saw us through.”

There were murmurs of agreement among the sailors. Nicholas responded only that he would give thanks in the nearest church.

But where had the storm taken them? By dawn they knew: in sight was Myra, the capital city, only twenty miles east of Patara!

The battered ship limped into harbor, but it was a jubilant crew that rode in on her. Nicholas too rejoiced as he saw the shores of Myra coming closer.
Oh, how good it felt to have solid, steady earth beneath his feet once again! Nicholas took a moment just to stand still. Then, though it was very early, he began to walk in search of a church. As he threaded his way through the still-dark streets, he did not know that soon this would be home. Nor did he know what once he entered the church, his life would be forever changed.

He had been gone for months, so he could not have known that the bishop of Myra had retired. During this time, the other bishops were meeting to select a new leader. So far, they had not agreed on anyone.

But just yesterday, the oldest member had a vision. In a dream, an angel told him how to choose the next bishop! It was an unusual procedure, but then, would an angel bring an ordinary message?

They were to go to the church early, before the first light touched the sky. There they were to wait in the hallway outside the main door to the church. The angel said that whoever entered the door first that morning would be a man worthy of the office.

“His name is Nicholas,” the angel said.

So, as the unsuspecting Nicholas made his way to the church, the bishops, this group of elders, gathered in the shadows of the church hallway. Curious and excited, they waited, and waited and waited.

Still rumpled from his stormy travels. Nicholas bounded up the steps and opened the door. He was greeted by an assembly of expectant faces.

“Good morning,” the oldest bishops said. “Excuse me, but what is your name?”

Nicholas looked about him, startled at this attention, but he answered politely,” I am Nicholas of Patara, your respectful servant.”

“Praise God!” someone whispered.

“Then welcome, Father Nicholas,” the same bishop said. “You have been chosen to be the next bishop of Myra.”

Bishop! Nicholas stared at these people in the dark hallway. They smiled, as if all this made sense. But Nicholas was barely a priest, a young one at that. He could not become a bishop!

Quickly the vision was explained to him.

Still, Nicholas protested, “But I’m too young!”

That didn’t matter. An angel had spoken. There was never any question in the minds of the others.

A ceremony was held. The child of Patara was now bishop of Myra. A quiet life was not to be Nicholas’ fate.