St. Roch: The Patron Saint of Dogs
Read about the legend of St. Roch, the patron saint of dogs!Published August 18, 2009
I was not aware that a Patron Saint for dogs existed until a friend sent me an email suggesting it as an interesting blog item about which to write.
August 16 is celebrated in Languedoc, a province in France, in memorial commemoration of a little known saint, St. Roch. Born around 1295, he is venerated in churches throughout the province and is specially invoked by faithful Catholics for protection against Bubonic Plague and other infectious diseases.
In reality, however, it appears that St. Roch was never a real person. His biography was created based on the life of someone else. His "story" was expanded and built into a legend through Church lore. Nevertheless this is a day which is celebrated annually.
The legend however, claims that Roch was born around 1295 at Montpellier. He was born to an Italian mother and the Governor of Montpellier. It was claimed that he was deemed "sacred" as a very young child, as his mother nursed him while she was involved her practice of a religious fasting regime.
It is said that around the age of 20, and upon the death of his parents, he gave up all his earthly goods, distributing them among the poor and started his journey as "mendicant" pilgrim. He tended to the sick during the plague epidemic, in public hospitals around Cesena, Rome and Acquapendente. It is rumored that he performed some miraculous cures, and he was able to even heal sick cattle.
However, when he reached Piacenza, he himself succumbed to the Plague. He was banished from the town and was forced to live in the forest. He drank water from a spring that "miraculously" appeared, and would have starved if not for a hunting dog belonging to a man named Gothard who actually brought him bread each day. Gothard followed his dog that was bringing bread to Roch, and became a believer and follower himself. Roch recovered completely from the Plague, which was also a sign of a miracle.
Yet upon his return to his native town, he was accused of being a spy by his uncle and was tossed into jail where he remained for five years. His death occurred on August 16, 1327. Townspeople recognized his birth mark and he was canonized as The Saint of Dogs in honor of the hunting dog that saved his life, in addition to his many miraculous cures. He was also credited with many other cures against pestilence. Of course this type of legend and story is a rather common one which has been attributed to many other saints.
In addition to being the Patron Saint of Dogs, Saint Roch also is the Patron Saint of Cholera, epidemics, skin diseases, diseased cattle, knee problems, and relief from pestilence.
Do you believe that "ordinary" humans can perform "miracles" and have special healing connections with animals? Leave a comment and share your views.