St. Nicholas Owen and service

Today Holy Mother Church celebrates the feast day of St. Nicholas Owen, a Jesuit lay brother during the late 1500s.

His life was one of service, but he always felt his call to service was not fitting for his capabilities; he felt completely unqualified to deal with the needs of the day.

You see, he was a short fellow–around 5 feet tall. He was called “Little John.” Why not “Little Nicholas”? The reason is below.

But it was during the penal times in England, when Catholics were being persecuted for their faith. Priests especially.

So Nicholas took it upon himself to build hiding places for the clergy. He made the building plans and did the building all himself, during the night. He was quite skilled at finding unusual places to make these hiding places, or “priest-holes” as they were called.

And he did a mighty job. Just take a look at the image above.

Because of him, clergy survived who otherwise would have died.

Because of this, clergy in England were able to continue celebrating the sacraments.

Think about it: people went to heaven because of St. Nicholas Owen’s work!!

Wikipedia provides an explanation as to why he was called ‘Little John’: “He frequently traveled from one house to another, under the name of “Little John”, accepting only the necessities of life as payment before starting off for a new project.”

I worked him into the prayer I led tonight for the facilitators of our GIFT program. Tonight’s presentation was by David Siler of Catholic Charities, who talked on the “call to service.”

What a fitting feast day for this talk!

Sometimes we feel unqualified an unable to accept God’s calls, particularly his calls to service. There are always naysayers. But the biggest naysayer is usually ourselves.

But St. Nicholas Owen shows us that these calls ought not dismissed by us to “someone who can do a better job.” Nope! God calls the unqualified and strengthens them with his grace. As Mother Teresa said, “If God wants me to do something, he gives me the means.”

And our service to others and to the Church is service to God!

St. Nicholas Owen: Pray for us!

2 thoughts on “St. Nicholas Owen and service

  1. angelmeg: I agree that God equips the ones he calls, as you say, but what I was trying to say is that the ones he calls don't always start out equipped. I think that the call oftentimes precedes God's action of equipping them.


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