Penitent and Pilgrim: ca. 1350-1380
+ Roch (or Roque) was born in France and at the age of 20, following the death of his parents, he traveled to Rome where he dedicated himself to caring for victims of plague. Many cures were attributed to his care and prayers.
+ Roch himself contracted the plague and never recovered. One legend tells us that Roch wandered into the forest, planning to die there alone. He was befriended by a dog who kept him alive by bringing him food taken from his master’s table.
+ When Roch returned to France, he was imprisoned by an uncle who didn’t recognize him. He died in prison at the age of 30. His identity was discovered only after his death.
+ Roch became one of the most popular saints in Western Europe and is honored as a miracle worker. He has often been invoked during times of plague.
+ Saint Roch has traditionally been honored as a patron saint of unmarried men and of dogs.
The saint in art
Saint Roch is often depicted dressed as a pilgrim, with a walking staff, broad brimmed hat, and a pilgrim’s shell (a symbol of the pilgrimage to the great shrine of Saint James in Compostela, Spain). Roch’s dog is also a common element in images of the saint.
“Let us reverently with devotion pray unto this glorious saint Saint Rocke, that by his intercession and prayer we may be delivered from the hard death of pestilence and epidemic, and that we may so live in this life and be penitent for our sins, that after this short life we may come unto everlasting life in heaven. Amen.”—from The Golden Legend by Blessed Jacob of Varagine
O God, who in your Saints have given an example and brought us protection in our weakness to help us tread the path of salvation, mercifully grant that we, who honor the heavenly birthday of blessed Roch, may, through his example, make our way to you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal—Common of Holy Men and Women—For One Saint)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.