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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume XI: November. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

November 26

St. Nicon, Surnamed Metanoite, Confessor

NICON, a native of Pontus, and of a noble family, in his youth fled privately from his friends to monastery called the stone of God, where he lived twelve years in the practice of the most austere penance and humble prayer, by which he studied perfectly to die to himself. His heart became quite penetrated with holy compunction and the purest love of God, and he spoke on virtue with an unction which pierced the souls of those that heard him discourse on heavenly things. The incredible spiritual fruit which his conferences and private exhortations produced, induced his superiors to employ him in preaching the word of God to the people. This office he exercised in quality of apostolic missionary in most parts of Armenia, and afterwards passed into Crete, which island was then in the hands of the Saracens. Penance was the great duty which the saint announced to the people in imitation of St. John Baptist, and he began all his sermons with these words: Metanoite, or do penance; whence this surname was given him. The necessity and obligation that all men lie under of doing penance, he inculcated according to the maxims of the gospel; and he excellently explained the conditions of sincere repentance. For thousands and thousands befool themselves, and mock God in this point, when, by venting a few sighs and groans they persuade themselves that they have repented, though their hearts all the while deceive them. A true penitent must apply himself to the difficult work of self-examination by a strict scrutiny into, and survey of, the whole state of his soul in order to discover every latent inordinate affection or passion. He must pursue sin home to his inclinations, and dislodge it thence; otherwise all he does will be to little purpose; so long as the root of sin remains lurking in the affections, it will shoot out again, and God who sees it there, pays no regard to lying vows and protestations. By earnest prayer, mortification, alms, and holy meditation the penitential sorrow must be improved, till it has forced its way into the very innermost corners and recesses of the soul, shaken all the powers of sin, and formed that new creature which is little understood among Christians, though the very essence of a Christian life. By teaching penitents thus to lay the axe to the very root of sin, St. Nicon had the comfort to see many wonderful conversions wrought amongst Christians, by which the face of religion seemed changed amongst them through the whole island. The saint, fearing lest the infant-principles of conversion might be stifled and overlaid by the cares of the world, was infinitely solicitous to engage penitents to cut off and renounce all occasions of sin, to strengthen their souls in the fervent practice of all virtues and good works, and to cultivate the seeds of piety which the divine grace had sown in them. The sweetness with which the holy preacher recommended the most severe maxims of the gospel, made our faith appear amiable to the Mahometans themselves. After having preached in Crete almost twenty years, and settled all the churches of that island in good order, he passed to the continent in Europe, and announced the divine word in Peloponnesus, Achaia, Epirus, and other parts of Greece, confirming his doctrine with miracles. He died in a monastery in Peloponnesus in 998, and is honoured both in the Greek and Roman Calendars. See his authentic life in Baronius Annal. t. 10.  1