Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume V: May. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Nicholas, Bishop of Lincopen, in Sweden, Confessor
HERMAN and MARGARET, the parents of our saint, were citizens of Skeningen in Sweden, and held a distinguished rank in the country, which they rendered more illustrious by their virtue. By their care, Nicholas was imbued from the cradle with the perfect spirit of Christian piety, and taught to dread nothing so much as whatever could tarnish the robe of innocence and grace with which he had been clothed in the sacred laver of baptism. In these happy dispositions, he studied at home the first elements of grammar, and whilst yet very young was sent to Paris, in order to accomplish himself in the sciences.Thence he removed to Orleans, where he both completed his theological course, and took his degrees in civil and canon law. Perfectly qualified by learning and virtue for the service of the church he returned home, and was soon after appointed archdeacon of Lincopen. His whole life was a perfect sacrifice of penance and devotion. On Fridays he took no other nourishment than bread with a little salt and water, and sometimes passed that whole day from Thursday evening till Saturday noon without food. In the discharge of his office he suffered, with unshaken constancy and patience, many grievous persecutions from the tyranny of great men and incorrigible sinners, reformed the manners of a savage and ignorant people, and established the rules of virtue and ecclesiastical discipline.Herbert, the first bishop of Lincopen, some pretend to have been contemporary with Charlemagne; but the more accurate antiquarians place him about the year 1000, something younger than St. Sigfrid. The history of the bishops of Lincopen, in Swedish verse,1 informs us, that Gotzcalc, the sixteenth bishop of Lincopen, dying, St. Nicholas was advanced to that see. This dignity was a fresh spur to his zeal in promoting the divine honour, and to his fervour in every religious exercise. Raised above all views to his own private interest, in every thing he laid himself out for the service of God and his neighbour, and for the maintenance of peace among all men. His meekness and patience were proof to all trials: and prayer and heavenly meditation were to him a source of spiritual light, comfort, and strength. The study of the holy scriptures was principally his private entertainment: out of the most useful sentences of the canon law and fathers he compiled an excellent book, which he called Huitebook. He wrote short comments on the Morals of St. Gregory, certain works of St. Anselm, and the writings of St. Bridget, whose canonization he warmly promoted, but died in the year in which that affair was finished. He wrote the lives of St. Bridget, St. Anscarius, and some other holy servants of God: and compiled a book of flowers out of the psalms. How highly Pope Urban VI. honoured his sanctity, appears from a letter written by that pope in 1381, quoted by Benzelius. His successor, bishop Canut, speaks of his sanctity with great veneration.2 St. Nicholas died in our Lord, in 1391, and was honoured in Sweden among the titular saints of the kingdom, with St. Sigfrid, St. Brinolph, St. Birget, St. Helen of Scoduc, St. Catharine, and St. Ingridie of Scheningen, who died in 1282, who are invoked together in the prayer of the mass for the feast of St. Nicholas, in the old Swedish Missal quoted by Benzelius. See the long particular office and lessons in honour of this saint, formerly used in the church of Lincopen, printed at Sudercopen in 1523, and republished by Benzelius, in his Monumenta Ecclesiæ Suevogothicæ, p. 109. Also the Swedish Chronicle of the bishops of Lincopen, ib. p. 125, and this editors notes, p. 254.