Saint of the day:
St. Nicholas of Tolentino
Patron Saint of animals; babies; boatmen; dying people; mariners; holy souls; sailors; sick animals; souls in purgatory; watermen; La Aldea de San Nicolás, Spain; In the Philippines: Banton, Cabatuan, Capas, Guimbal, La Huerta, Lambunao, Macabebe, Mariveles, Surigao City, Sinait, San Nicolas, Tibiao, Tobias Fornier, and the Dioceses of Cabanatuan, Mati, Surigao and Tandag.
St. Nicholas of Tolentino
Born in 1245 in Sant'Angelo, St. Nicholas of Tolentino took his name from St. Nicholas of Myra, at whose shrine his parents prayed to have a child. Nicholas became a monk at 18, and seven years later, he was ordained a priest. He gained a reputation as a preacher and a confessor. C. 1274, he was sent to Tolentino, near his birthplace. The town suffered from civil strife between the Guelphs, who supported the pope, and Ghibellines, who supported the Holy Roman Emperor, in their struggle for control of Italy. Nicholas was primarily a pastor to his flock. He ministered to the poor and the criminal. He is said to have cured the sick with bread over which he had prayed to Mary, the mother of God. He gained a reputation as a wonder-worker. Nicholas died in 1305 after a long illness. People began immediately to petition for his canonization. Eugene IV canonized him in 1446, and his relics were rediscovered in 1926 at Tolentino.
His profile: His middle-aged parents, Compagnonus de Guarutti and Amata de Guidiani, were childless until a prayerful visit to a shrine of Saint Nicholas of Myra at Bari, Italy. In gratitude, the couple named their son Nicholas.
Nicholas became an Augustinian friar at age 18, and a student with Blessed Angelus de Scarpetti. Monk at Recanati and Macerata in Italy. Ordained at age 25. Canon of Saint Saviour’s. There he received visions of angels reciting the phrase “to Tolentino“; he took this as a sign to move to that city in 1274, and there he lived the rest of his life.
Worked as a peacemaker in a city torn by civil war. Preached every day, wonder-worker and healer, and visited prisoners. He always told those he helped, “Say nothing of this.” Received visions, including images of Purgatory, which friends ascribed to his lengthy fasts. Nicholas had a great devotion to the recently dead, praying for the souls in Purgatory as he travelled around his parish, and often late into the night.
Once, when severely ill, he had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Augustine of Hippo and Monica. They told him to eat a certain type of roll that had been 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.
Reported to have resurrected over one hundred dead children, including several who had drowned together. Legend says that the devil once beat Nicholas with a stick; the stick was displayed for years in the his church. A vegetarian, Nicholas was once served a roasted fowl; he made the sign of the cross over the bird, and it flew out a window. Nine passengers on ship going down at sea once asked for the aid of Saint Nicholas; he appeared in the sky, wearing the black Augustinian habit, radiating golden light, holding a lily in his left hand; with his right hand he quelled the storm. An apparition of the saint once saved the burning palace of the Doge of Venice by throwing a piece of blessed bread on the flames.
Basilica di San Nicola a Tolentino
Piazza, Traversa S. Nicola, 62029 Tolentino MC, Italy
Pan de San Nicholas of Tolentino
One of the most charming bread traditions introduced by the Spaniards to the Filipinos occurs every September 10th in parishes honoring San Nicholas de Tolentino.
Saint Nicholas de Tolentino is a Super Saint of the Augustinian order. Aside from being the traditional patron of forty-six Philippine towns (Augustine is tutelary of only forty-four), he became famous for the legend of Guadalupe’s San Nicholasi; the “miraculous” appearance of the shrikes or locally known as the tarat during his feast day; and the sacramental bread (or more of a biscuit) known as the Pan de San Nicholas.
Born in 1245, San Nicholas de Tolentino was an Italian hermit of the Augustinian order who made his profession before turning 19 years old. He is usually depicted dressed in black robe, with a star shining above him or resting on his chest. In his hand is a lily or lily-garlanded crucifix that symbolizes his youthful virginity. At times he carries a money bag or bread bun symbolic of his continuous charity with the poor until his death in 1306. In the Philippines, where he is considered as the baker’s patron, a tarat bird which migrates to the islands in September is added to his iconography.
The distinguishing feature of the San Nicholas feast was the blessing and distribution of bread, the bread which was supposed to be as miraculous as the saint’s charities. According to the story, when San Nicholas was ill, he envisioned that the Virgin had advised him to eat a small piece of bread dipped in water; following Blessed Virgin’s advice, San Nicholas recovered. Thereon, he started distributing blessed bread to the sick. After his demise, his followers continued the practice of blessing and portioning bread during his feast day.
According to Felice Prudente-Sta. Maria, Pan de San Nicholas is not bread but a biscuit. Wheat or arrow-root flour, a hint of sugar and water are all it takes to make this holy cookie. Some add eggs and milk that bread vendors of that time cried out “Pan de San Nicholas, me gatas, me itlog!” Its flavor and texture is similar to the uraro as we know it today. What makes the Pan de San Nicholas different from the uraro though is the embossed image of San Nicholas on the biscuit.
Sta. Maria explains that it was only on the feast day of San Nicholas were made available. Therefore, the production of the Pan de Nicholas ration must last for one whole year till the next feast.
The biscuits were made after flattening dough with a wooden rolling pin. Hands-size portions are slapped unto baking cards finely carved with recessed likeness of the saint. Then the dough is extracted with a knife or metal cutter. It takes hours to make a batch in old-fashioned rice-husk or wood fueled furnace.
Pan de San Nicholas is to be stored and in the event of illness, eaten with accompanying prayer: “Grant we beseech thee, Almighty God, that thy Church, which is made illustrious by the glory of the marvels and miracles of blessed Nicholas, thy confessor, may by his merits and intercession enjoy perpetual peace and unity, through Christ, our Lord, Amen.”
The curative effect when eating the Pan de San Nicholas may have had more than a placebo effect. Penicillin, the first and the most valuable antibiotic, is most commonly found on bread mold. It is thought that sanative effect of Pan de San Nicholas is due to either the subjective impression of patients, primitive penicillin at work.
Moreover, when the blessed biscuit is not eaten for illness, it is crumbled and spread to the fields during planting with the hope for a bountiful harvest.
Filipino Pan de San Nicolas
is considered to be the oldest cookies in the Philippines and they are buttery, sweet from the coconut cream and have a firm shortbread-like texture.
Makes about 18 cookies.
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine, softened at room temperature
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups rice flour
In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch, baking powder, salt, sugar, egg yolks, coconut milk, softened butter, lemon zest and oil. Blend well with a wooden spoon. Slowly add the cake flour and the rice flour and mix until well blended. Knead the mixture until the dough is thick and has a smooth surface. This takes about 10 minutes.
Put the dough into an airtight container and freeze for 2 to 4 hours or up to overnight.
When ready to bake, take the dough out of the freezer and thaw on the counter for 8 to 10 minutes. Keep the dough very cold so it is easy to roll out and handle on the molds.
Pre-heat the oven to 325 F.
Grease the carved surface of the mold with baking spray or shortening. Make sure to grease the inner crevices and corners so that the dough can be removed easily after shaping.
Place a piece of the dough, about 4 tablespoons, over the mold, on the carved portion. Flatten with your hand to spread it around evenly. Place a piece of parchment or wax paper over the dough and, using a rolling pin, roll and flatten the dough so it gets embedded in the design.
Place a round or oval cookie cutter over the mold, to cut the dough to the appropriate shape. Trim the edges of the cookie if necessary. Quickly transfer the molded dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone sheet. Continue to form the cookies and transfer them to the baking sheet.
Bake cookies 10 to 12 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned. They will be crisp on the outside, but will have a slightly soft shortbread texture inside.
Transfer cookies to a cooling rack. It will take at least 30- 40 minutes for the cookies to cool on the rack. When cookies are cooled, wrap in white cellophane wrappers to show off the intricate designs. Store in an airtight glass or plastic jar.
Note: These wooden handcrafted cookie molds were purchased in Mexico.
*If you don’t have these Filipino cookie molds, substitute with a springerle mold from online sources. (Celestial Sun Springerle Cookie Mold.)