St. Roch and the Dog

St. Roch was born in 1295 in Montpelier, France. According to one legend, he was born with a red cross on his chest. He was of noble blood, and his parents died when he was twenty. At that time, he gave his inheritance to the poor and went on a pilgrimage. During his pilgrimage, he encountered many people who had been stricken by the plague, and his heart broke for them.

He prayed with them, and was able to cure many of them by making the sign of the cross over them. Eventually, however, he contracted the plague himself. He did not wish to share his infection, so he resolved to quietly go into the woods and die.

While he was in the woods, however, a dog discovered him. This dog visited him many times, always bringing with him food from his master's table, as well as gingerly licking the saint's wounds. One day, the dog returned with his master, who, upon seeing St. Roch in such a desperate state, carried him home and nursed him to health.

By the time that St. Roch had again become healthy, a civil war shook France. St. Roch decided to attempt to return to his home, and the dog followed him. But he was captured and wrongly imprisoned for spying. The loyal dog accompanied him to his prison cell. St. Roch devoted his last five years of life to caring for his fellow prisoners and praying from his cell. He never admitted that he was of royal blood, although his status would have likely freed him from the prison.

Figure 8-2: St. Roch and the dog

St. Roch died in 1327 of natural causes. He is commemorated on August 16 and is considered the patron saint of dogs and those who love them, as well as invalids and those suffering from knee injuries and pestilence. After St. Roch's death, numerous healings were connected to him. Many people believe that he is a healer of those who are suffering from infectious diseases. He was canonized 100 years after his death, around the year 1427.

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