Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas, the 4th century Bishop of Myra whose legendary generosity and reputation for secret gift-giving made him the real-life model
for “Santa Claus” (from the Dutch Sinter-Klaas).
After becoming Bishop of Bari, St. Nicholas was imprisoned and tortured during the persecution of Emperor Diocletian (303-313). After his release, the aged bishop participated in the Council of Nicea (325), where he is said to have walked across the room to slap the face of Arius, the arch-heretic who denied Jesus’ divinity. By all accounts, Nicholas held firmly to the orthodox faith, while showing gentleness to his flock, whose souls he perceived as threatened by the poison of Arius’ false teaching. In sum, St. Nicholas showed himself to be what my latinist friend calls “episcopus cum testiculi” (for which a colorful alliterative translation suggests itself).