Monday, August 15, 2011

Alban Butler

[St. Roch] was born of a noble family . . . and making a pilgrimage of devotion to Rome, he devoted himself in Italy to serve the sick during a raging pestilence. . . . Falling himself sick, and unable to assist others, and shunned and abandoned by the whole world, he made a shift to crawl rather than walk into a neighbouring forest, where a dog used to lick his sores. . . . Many cities have been speedily delivered from the plague by imploring his intercession, in particular that of Constance [now Konstanz, Germany] during the general council held there in 1414.

From his monumental work, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints, which was published in four volumes in 1756-59.  

After the death of his parents when he was 20, St. Roch (or St. Rocco) gave away his goods and made a pilgrimage from his birthplace in southern France to Rome.  There was a plague epidemic in Italy at that time, and Roch selflessly tended the sick and effected many miraculous cures by making the sign of the cross.  When he became infected while in Piacenza, he was expelled from the city and forced to live in the forest.  Legend has it that he would have perished without the aid of a local nobleman's dog, who brought him a loaf of bread each day and healed his wounds by licking them.

St. Roch, whose feast day is tomorrow, has been invoked against cholera, the plague, and other epidemic diseases for centuries.  He is also the patron saint of dogs.  He is usually depicted in a pilgrim's tunic, displaying the plague sores on his thigh, and accompanied by a dog carrying a loaf of bread in its mouth. 

St. Roch

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