Saint Phocas the Gardener, Martyr

As a gardening enthusiast, I was especially struck by this week’s Saint of the Week, Saint Phocas the Gardener who lived in the city of Sinope, on the Black Sea coast modern day Turkey, in the 3rd and early 4th century when Christians were still being widely persecuted.  To say Saint Phocas had the charisma of hospitality, is a gross understatement! He was an inn keeper and gardener who used the garden to feed the poor and the guests who stayed at his inn.  When soldiers were sent to Sinope with orders to find and execute Saint Phocas for the crime of being a Christian, they unknowingly sought lodgings at his inn. The soldiers revealed their mission to him and asked if he knew where they could find their victim.  He told them he knew him well and would tell them where to find him in the morning.  Saint Phocas fed and provided lodging for the men.  While they were asleep he dug his own grave, arranged for his possessions to be given to the poor and prepared for his death.  In the morning, he revealed to his unsuspecting guests that he was the man they were searching for.  The soldiers were so taken back by his hospitality given their mission that they didn’t want to carryout the execution.  Saint Phocas assured them he welcomed a martyr’s death and that they would be doing him a service.  With that assurance, they lopped off his head on July 3rd, 303.  He was buried in the self-dug grave and a church was later erected on the site.  He is venerated as a Saint by both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Catholic Church who celebrate his feast day on September 22nd.

Patron Saint of: Gardeners, agriculture workers, farmers, field hands, sailors and mariners, against insect bites, snake bites and poisoning.

Feast Day:  July 23rd

Saint Phocas the Gardener, pray for us!

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