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Saint Nicholas of Flue

Saint Nicholas of Flue
  • Century: 15th Century
  • Patronage: Pontifical Swiss Guards, Switzerland
  • Feast Day: March 21st

St. Nicholas was born in Canton of Unterwalden, in Switzerland.  He was the son of wealthy peasants, and made himself distinguished as a soldier in action against the canton of Zurich, which had rebelled against the confederation.  At the age of thirty he married, and they farmed in the Alpine foothills.  He also continued in the military until the age of 37, rising to the position of captain, fighting with a sword in one hand, and a rosary in the other.  After he left the military, he became a judge for his Canton.  

He received a mystical vision, which he recognized as indicating that the cares of his worldly life were swallowing up his spiritual life.  He decided to devote himself entirely to the contemplative life.  In 1467, he left his wife and his ten children with her consent and set himself up as a hermit, establishing a Chantry for a Priest from his own funds, so he could assist at daily Mass.  Legend tells us that he survived for nineteen years with no food except for the Eucharist.  His reputation for wisdom and piety was such that figures from across Europe came to seek advice from him, and he was known to all as “Brother Klaus”.  In 1470, Pope Paul II granted the first indulgence to the sanctuary, and it became a place of pilgrimage.  

His wisdom and counsel prevented a civil war between the cantons in 1481, when their antagonism grew.  The advice he gave them remains a secret to this day.  Despite being illiterate and having limited experience with the world, he is honored among both Protestants and Catholics with the permanent national unity of Switzerland.  When he died on March 21, 1487, his wife and children surrounded him.  He was beatified in 1669, and a Church was built in his honor in Sachseln, where his body was interred.  Pope Pius XII canonized him in 1947.  

Practical Take Away

St. Nicholas of Flue was a spiritual young man that was from a wealthy peasant family.  He became a soldier and rose to the rank of captain.  He fought with a sword in one hand, and a rosary in the other.  He left the military and had a vision that his worldly concerns were taking away from his spiritual life.  He became a hermit, and lived for 19 years on the Eucharist alone.  He is the Patron saint of Switzerland and the Pontifical Swiss Guards.  He grew in wisdom, and counseled many leaders in the ways of God.