NICHOLAS OF TOLENTINO (c. 1246 – September 10, 1306), known as the Patron of Holy Souls, was an Italian saint and mystic. He was born Nicholas Gurrutti at Sant'Angelo in Pontano in Italy, in what was then the March of Ancona. He was the son of parents who had been childless into middle age. Compagnonus de Guarutti and Amata de Guidiani, prayed at the shrine of Saint Nicholas of Myra for his intercession, and when Amata became pregnant they named their son after the saint.
A studious, kind and gentle youth, at the age of 16 Nicholas became an Augustinian Friar and was a student of the Blessed Angelus de Scarpetti. A monk at the monasteries at Recanati and Macerata as well as others, he was ordained in 1270 at the age of 25, and soon became known for his preaching and teachings. Nicholas, who had had visions of angels reciting "to Tolentino", in 1274 took this as a sign to move to that city, where he lived the rest of his life.
On account of his kind and gentle manner his superiors entrusted him with the daily feeding of the poor at the monastery gates, but at times he was so free with the friary's provisions that the procurator begged the superior to check his generosity. Once, when weak after a long fast, he received a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Augustine who told him to eat some bread marked with cross and dipped in water. Upon doing so he was immediately stronger. He started distributing these rolls to the ailing, while praying to Mary, often curing the sufferers; This is the origin of the Augustinian custom of blessing and distributing Saint Nicholas Bread.
In Tolentino, Nicholas worked as a peacemaker in a city torn by strife between the Guelfs and Ghibellines who, in the conflict for control of Italy, supported the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor respectively. He ministered to his flock, helped the poor and visited prisoners. When working wonders or healing people, he always asked those he helped to "Say nothing of this", explaining that he was just God's instrument.
During his life, Nicholas is said to have received visions, including images of Purgatory, which friends ascribed to his lengthy fasts. Prayer for the souls in purgatory was the outstanding characteristic of his spirituality. Because of this Nicholas was proclaimed patron of the souls in Purgatory in 1884 by Leo XIII. Towards the end of his life he became ill, suffering greatly, but still continued the mortifications that had been part of his holy life. Nicholas died on September 10, 1305.
Nicholas was canonized by Pope Eugene IV(also an Augustinian) in 1446. He was the first Augustinian to be canonized. At his canonization, Nicholas was credited with three hundred miracles, including three resurrections. The remains of St. Nicholas are preserved at the Shrine of Saint Nicholas in the Basilica di San Nicola da Tolentino in the city of Tolentino, province of Macerata in Marche, Italy.
He is depicted in the black habit of the Hermits of St. Augustine — a star above him or on his breast, a lily, or a crucifix garlanded with lilies, in his hand. Sometimes, instead of the lily, he holds a vial filled with money or bread.