St. Nicholas of Flüe, pray for us!
St. Nicholas of Flüe – Patron of Switzerland and Builder of Peace
Nicholas (Niklaus von Flüe) was born in 1417, son of Heini von Flüe and Hemma Ruobert, in Flüeli, near Sachseln, in the region of Obwalden, Switzerland. Sachseln is the geographic center of Switzerland, which is in the heart of Europe. The best-known and closest Swiss cities are Bern, Lucerne and Interlaken.
Nicholas became a peasant. In his youth, too, he went to war. At almost 30 years old, he builds a house (in 1446) and marries Dorothea Wyss (born 1432), then 16 years old. Five boys and five girls are born of them. Nicholas was counselor and judge. He had the special gift of mediating between enemy groups. Realizing that judges and counselors were corrupt, he leaves his political offices (in 1465) and enters into a deep internal crisis. Increasingly, he seeks solitude and fasting.
Nicholas clearly recognizes the illness of his day. He sees the hearts of people who, in their private and public lives, aim only for their personal gain. Once he sees in a dream the towering mountain Pilatus sink to the ground: “All the earth has opened and all sins have been discovered. A great number of people appeared and behind them the truth. The great evil is the selfishness that seduces people. “
An inner life
On the one hand, it is linked to the family and, on the other hand, it grows in it the eagerness to renounce all earthly goods. After two years of tormenting doubts, Dorothea offers the liberating “yes” for the step into an uncertain future. Nicholas leaves the house and family, with the agreement of his wife and children, on St. Gallus day on October 16, 1467, then at the age of fifty, wearing only a habit of penance. Despite the separation, Nicholas and Dorothea remain united in love. Dorothea played a significant role in supporting her husband’s holy path. She also deserves, and no less than Nicholas, thanks and veneration.
In his pilgrim habit, Nicholas walks towards Basel. He stops at Liestal (a short distance before Basel): the small town appears as red as fire. Nicholas talks to a peasant who comes along the way. He advises him not to go abroad, but to serve God in his own country. Nicholas spends the night outdoors. There, a light beam hits him from the sky, which hurts him as much as if a knife had cut his body. Nicholas returns. Without food or drink, he arrives in his village. Some hunters find him in the mountains. He continues to search, until four lights show him the place on which he should sit: in his own land, a hundred meters from his house and his family, further down the deep canyon of Ranft, beside a stream. Spends winter in poverty and cold. The following year, the people that place built a house and a chapel (in 1468). From country man, Nicholas von Flüe becomes the hermit “Brother Nicholas” (Bruder Klaus).
Since the night in Liestal, Brother Nicholas lives without any body food. Fasting was not something extraordinary to him. The Eucharist was their main food. His son Hans says that he was fasting for four days each week and during the time of Lent, he ate nothing but a small piece of bread and a few dried pears a day.
Despite the life of isolation, he was a person informed about everything. His mind was attentive and he was going deep into things. In his cell (still existent and open to the visitation), a window gives to the interior of the chapel, in the altar. The other window gives out, for the people. His advice came from the depths of his soul. Nicholas was a person of images (he did not read or write). He concentrated, for his meditations and prayers, on a frame formed by a central circle and six other circles around it. In each circle there is a theologically engraved picture of God’s threefold unity.
A life for others
Many people sought Brother Nicholas for advice: women and men, young and old, poor and rich. In a time of intrigue, Brother Nicholas was above the parties. His convicted life gave him maximum moral authority. Brother Nicholas contributed decisively to peace (Treaty of Stans, 1481) in the so-called Confederation, in what we know today as Switzerland. Swiss cantons (the equivalent of Brazil’s states) in conflict get a lasting federal agreement. Since then, he has become a peacemaker and is consulted as mediator in political and ecclesiastical conflicts.
In his letter to the council of the city of Bern (1482), the hermit said to those people on whom peace depends: “… obedience is the highest honor in heaven and on earth, so you should aspire to be obedient to others … peace is always with God, because God is Peace “. Peace can not be ordered. It’s a gift. Conflicts can only be resolved with complete mutual respect. There is no peace without justice. That is why peace appeals to the deepest of people and calls for our greatest effort. Finally, peace is based on “being united”, not being one with God.
A life of prayer
On March 21, 1487, Brother Nicholas dies, at the age of 70. He was buried in the Sachseln Parish Church. He left us his main prayer, which guided him throughout his life:
My Lord and my God, take from me all that may I depart from You!
My Lord and my God, grant me all may you draw me to You!
My Lord and my God, take me all and make me entirely yours!
A Life of Holiness
Brother Nicholas is essentially ecumenical. The hermit warns our churches not to watch over the frontiers, but to merge in the center. In this center, in the trinity deity, is the “One Being.” It is important that we live truly from the center of faith.
His beatification took place in 1649 and his canonization came on May 15, 1947, by Pope Pius XII.
His contemporaries called him, still alive, as “a living saint.” His fame spread throughout Europe. The Swiss poet Heinrich Federer wrote in 1921: “Brother Nicholas is too big to be Swiss only. Brother Nicholas belongs to the whole world.” Today, there are in the four continents hundreds of churches, chapels and schools dedicated to the saint of peace, Nicholas von Flüe, including São Carlos City, São Paulo State, Brazil, called São Nicolau de Flüe church, in the neighborhood of village called Vila Carmem.