Today is the feast of St. Nicholas, bishop and confessor who attended the Council of Nicea and was instrumental in drawing up the Nicene Creed but who is more widely known today as Santa Claus (how the mighty have fallen). He was renowned for his generosity and care for the poor, but there was another side to him, a side that most people have no idea existed.
At the aforementioned Council of Nicea, St. Nicholas punched Arius, founder of the Arian Heresy, for denying the Divinity of Christ. This naturally caused a shock–whether he was a heretic or not, you simply didn’t punch people at ecumenical councils. The other bishops at the council stripped Nicholas of his bishop’s garments and had him thrown in jail for assault.
“But how did he go on to become Santa Claus?” you’re probably asking at this point. Well, that night the Lord and the Blessed Virgin visited St. Nicholas in his cell, and when asked why he was in jail, the bishop responded that it was for love of his Lord. This response pleased Christ, and he gave St. Nicholas a book of the Gospels; the Blessed Virgin gave him a stole that represented his status as a bishop.
Here’s where it gets really interesting–the emperor and the bishop who was presiding over the council both saw this visit in their dreams that night, and in the morning they went to visit St. Nicholas to determine if what they had seen was real. When they saw his reading the book he had received from Our Lord the night before and wearing the stole that Our Lady had given him, they were convinced. St. Nicholas was released from jail and returned to the council.
There’s actually a really neat video about this story that you can watch here: