Tuesday, March 21, 2006
St. Nicholas of Flue is the patron saint of Switzerland. He was born on March 12, 1417 on the Flüeli, a fertile plateau near Sachseln, Canton Obwalden, Switzerland. He was the oldest son of pious, peasant parents.
As a young boy, he was fond of praying and practising mortification. At the age of 21 he enlisted in the army and took part in the battle of Ragaz in 1446. He also participated in the Thurgau war against Archduke Sigismund of Austria. Because of his intercession, Swiss confederates did not destroy the Dominican convent of St. Katharinental.
At the age of twenty-five, he married a pious girl from Sachseln, named Dorothy Wyssling, who bore him five sons and five daughters. Their youngest son became a priest and doctor of theology. Nicholas served as magistrate and was a highly respected counselor.
After twenty - five years of living in wedlock, with his wife's permission, in 1467, he embraced the life of a hermit and adopted an austere lifestyle. He lived in a narrow hut, which he himself had built with branches and leaves. He wore neither shoes nor cap, and even in winter, he wore only a hermit's gown. In 1468, "Brother Klaus", (as he became affectionately known as) saved the town of Sarnen from a fire by his prayers and the sign of the cross.
Dignitaries from nearly every country of Europe came to this humble man for counsel in matters of the utmost importance. In 1469, the civil authorities built a cell and a chapel for him where he resided for the remainder of his life.
Through his efforts, he helped bring about the inclusion of Fribourg and Soleure in the Swiss Confederation in 1481, thus preventing the eruption of a potentially bloody civil war.
Nicholas died on his 70th birthday on March 21, 1487. He was beatified in 1669 by Pope Clement IX, canonized in 1947, by Pope Pius XII.