Saint Roch, Patron Saint Against the Plague

This week’s Saint of the Week, Saint Roch, lived in 13th century France and was born with a birthmark in the shape of a cross on his chest, which his pious parents took as a sign he was going to be a Godly man.  Saint Roch was born into a wealthy family but lost both of his parents by young age of 20. His fathers last words to him had a lasting impact, “Before all things, devote yourself to the service of God, and meditate diligently on the sufferings of our Divine Lord. Be the stay of the widow, the orphan, and all those in misfortune. Above all, keep yourself from avarice, the source of very many sins. Be eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame, be a father to the poor, and know that by employing the property which I leave you in works of mercy, you will be blessed by God and man.”

Like many Saints that were born into wealth and privilege, both before and after him, Saint Roch sold all of his belongings and joined the Third Order, (lay order) of Saint Francis, devoting his life to the service of others.  While on a pilgrimage to Rome, he stopped in a town that was  stricken with the plague, to care for the afflicted. He cured many plague victims by tracing the sign of the cross on their foreheads.

Saint Roch’s service to plague victims caused him to contract the disease himself.  He withdrew to the woods to die so as not become a burden to others.  A dog began showing up daily with a loaf of bread which he gave to Saint Roch for food.  Eventually the owner of the dog, also a Godly man, followed the dog, found Saint Roch, brought him home and nursed him back to health.  

Once back on his feet, Saint Roch returned to his home in the south of France, which was in the throes of a civil war.  Saint Roch was arrested as a spy, and rather than provide his true identity, he only claimed to be a servant of God.  He was incarcerated in a dungeon under very harsh conditions.  He could have been released at any time by simply telling them his name, but instead remained anonymous and endured the suffering of his captivity.

After 5 hard years in prison, Saint Rock became sick and was near death.  He dreamed of an angel telling him God was pleased with him and was calling him home for his reward.  Saint Roch appealed to God to assist all who were afflicted with the plague and who called upon his name.  At the moment of his death, the singing of angles was heard throughout the prison.  A tablet was found near his body that contained the Saint’s name and the following words inscribed in gold letters, “I announce protection and deliverance to all those who being endangered by the plague, shall have recourse to my intercession.” 

After his death, the Governor of the Provence came to view the body of the pious prisoner, only to discover his very own nephew by the birthmark on his chest!  St. Roch’s reputation for holiness and the miraculous healing of plague victims has made him the patron saint against the plague.  One such occasion occurred when the plague struck Germany in the 15th century.  After public prayers were offered and processions held in honor of Saint Roch, the plague miraculously ceased.  Saint Roch should be a source of comfort to all of us in the time of  COVID-19.  He remains the patron saint of plague victims to this day. 

Patron Saint of: Plaque victims, dogs, knee problems.   

Feast Day:  August 16th

Prayer to Saint Roch

Hail, O most holy Roch, born of a noble family, marked in the left side with the sign of the Cross. St. Roch, in your far journeys, you healed in a marvelous way with your health-giving touch, the sick who were struck with the deadly plague. Hail, angelic St. Roch! Who, by the intervention of a heavenly messenger, obtained from God the privilege of preserving from the plague all those who invoke you. Pray for us, O Blessed Roch, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Oh God, who dist engrave on a tablet, by the hand of an angel, the promise made to Blessed Roch of preserving from the plague whosoever should invoke his name, vouchsafe, by his merits and prayers, to grant that we may be delivered from the plague of both soul and body. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saint Roch, pray for us!

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