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Born: 1295
Died: 1327
FEast: Aug. 16th
Patron of:  plague, skin disease, dogs, second-hand dealers, 

 

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St. Roch (rocco)

Bio

 

 Born on what was the edge of France, Roch was the son of the city's governor. It was said that his mother was unable to bear children until she prayed to St. Mary, and when Roch was born, he had a birthmark on his chest in the shape of a red cross.

Not much is known about his life until both his parents had passed away when he was 20 years old, and he decided to leave home, giving away all his possessions and even his title as the new governor.  He set out on a pilgrimage for Rome, stopping in Italian towns along the way that were suffering from plague. He was said to have been able to cure many simply by making the sign of the cross on their foreheads - and sometimes, the mark miraculously remained.

When he reached the city of Piacenza, Roch finally contracted the plague, himself. He withdrew into the forest and built a shelter out of tree branches. A spring rose up in place to supply him with fresh water and a dog appeared every so often that would bring him bread and lick his wounds. When the dog's owner decided to follow him into the forest one day, he discovered Roch and soon became Roch's student.

He returned home when he had fully recovered, but was thrown into prison. He was mistakenly assumed to be a spy rather than a pilgrim, and his uncle, to whom he had given the governor's position, did not recognize him. He never revealed the birthmark that would have proven his innocence, and instead suffered in prison for five years until he passed away. After his death, the people of the town recognized the birthmark and he was given a public funeral and greatly mourned.

When the Black Death plague arose in Europe later on, all saints that had suffered plagues of their own became very popular, and a group at the Council of Constance in 1414 sent prayers to him, after which the plague immediately ceased. After this, he became well-known as a patron against disease. His relics were taken to Venice in 1485.

Prayer

 

as a patron of plagues, protect us from illness, and all that may injure our bodies and minds. Allow us clarity and peace in such situations, and spare us from grief and loss. Grant us a swift and complete recovery, in which we also grow from the pain. Remind us also to embrace the blessing of health when we have it, and to be grateful for times of well-being. Amen.

Art Reflection

 

The typical period pilgrim's hat and cloak that Roch is always depicted wearing are not all that different from today's styles of hats and long cardigans. He is shown wearing these but with jeans, a pilgrim's shell, a red crown symbolizing the COVID-19 Pandemic, and a walking stick. His dog is shown bringing him the bread that sustained him, and his wound is visible on his leg. The expression on his face was taken from reference images of the over-worked doctors in Italy at the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

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