Nicholas was born in 1245 in Sant’Angelo in the diocese of Fermo in Italy. His middle-aged parents named him in thanksgiving to St. Nicholas of Myra, to whose shrine they had made a pilgrimage after being childless for several years.
Nicholas showed early signs of piety. At age seven, he hid away in a nearby cave and prayed there like the hermits whom he had observed in the mountains.
He became an Augustinian friar at age eighteen and was ordained at twenty-five. Nicholas had visions of angels reciting "to Tolentino" and took this as a sign to move to that city in 1274, where he lived the rest of his life.
Tolentino was torn by civil war and Nicholas set about restoring peace and unity to the city by preaching in the streets, which converted many souls. His ministry was so effective that it was viewed as miraculous, but he was careful not to take credit for anything. He always told those he helped, "Say nothing of this. Give thanks to God, not to me. I am only a vessel of clay, a poor sinner."
Nicholas lived an austere life, often fasting and performing works of penance. He spent long hours in prayer. He had a strong devotion for the poor souls in Purgatory, praying for them often late into the night. As a priest and religious, he was full of charity towards his brother Augustinians as well as towards the people to whom he ministered. He frequently visited the sick and cared for the poor and the needy. He had a reputation as a healer, but what people admired about him the most was his humility and obedience, his charity, his kindness and gentleness, as well as his good nature.
One day, when severely ill, he had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Monica. They told him to eat a certain type of roll that had been marked with a cross and dipped in water. Cured, he began healing others by administering bread over which he recited Marian prayers. The rolls became known as Saint Nicholas Bread, and are still distributed at his shrine today.
On another occasion, Nicholas, who was a vegetarian, was served fowl for dinner. He made the sign of the cross over the bird, and it flew out a window.
During the last years of his life Nicholas was bedridden and suffered greatly. He died in 1305, surrounded by his community and was canonized by Pope Eugene IV in 1446. The remains of St. Nicholas are preserved at the Shrine of Saint Nicholas in the city of Tolentine.
St. Nicholas is the patron of: babies, dying people, the poor souls in purgatory, sailors, and sick animals.
"The heavens are not pure in the sight of Him Whom I serve; how then shall I, a sinful man, stand before Him?"
-- St. Nicholas of Tolentino