Confessor, Patron of Invalids, Dogs, and Dog Owners
Saint Roch was the son of a governor of Montpellier. His pious parents, already advanced in age, obtained his birth by their persevering prayers, promising to give to God the child He would grant them.
This miraculous infant was born with a red cross on his breast, sign of a very particular predestination.
From the age of five he began to chastise his little body by privations. As he grew in age and in grace, he was noted for his gracious hospitality for the poor and travelers.
He was not yet twenty years old when he experienced the grief of losing both his father and his mother.
He immediately sold all his property and made himself poor to follow Christ.
He entered the Third Order of Saint Francis and dressed as a pilgrim, traveled on foot to Rome, asking alms.
A pestilence was then devastating Italy; he devoted himself to caring for the sick. Passing alongside their beds, he would take their hand, and with them make the sign of the Cross, and all rose up cured.
In Rome, miracles multiplied where he passed.
He lived there for three years without making known his name and his origins, even to the Holy Father.
Then, returning to his native region, he was suddenly seized by the plague and withdrew into a cabin on the borders of a forest, where a dog brought him a small loaf of bread every day.
Saint Roch was surprised by Count Gothard’s hunting dog which brought him food and licked his wounds which began to heal. Furthermore, a spring arose out of the ground where he lay which gave him a constant supply of clean water, certainly a rarity in Rome at the time.
After returning to health, he ventured back to his home in Montpellier where was accussed of being a spy and was imprisoned by his uncle who failed to recognize him. He then lived in prison for 5 years with an angel caring for him until he died in 1327.
Cured by the graces of heaven, he entered Montpellier like a stranger; and his uncle, the governor, not recognizing him, cast him into prison as a spy.
After five years there he died, stretched out on the ground, after receiving the Last Sacraments.
He was recognized by the red cross on his breast, and his funeral was a triumph.
His cult became very popular and has remained so for the entire Church.
After his death, miracles taking place by his intercession became increasingly more popular which resulted in a cult becoming developed around him.
The Church of San Rocco was built in Venice, Italy quickly after his death and today holds many of his relics. Intercession to Saint Roch increased ten-fold after the Fathers of the Council of Constance of 1414 ordered public prayers and processions for the saint which immediately ended a plague in Constance.
Saint Roch’s feast day is August 16th and typically involves a procession of a Saint Roch statue.
Fun St. Roch facts:
St. Roch is the patron against plague, cholera, and skin rashes and typically devotion includes prayer cards and St. Roch Medals.
Furthermore, he is the Patron of Dogs, and 15 cities/towns in Italy.
St. Roch is typically presented with a dog feeding him and a nasty knee wound.
St. Roch never revealed that he had noble blood while he was in prison because he didn’t want to draw attention to himself. After his death, people discovered who he was by the birth mark cross on his chest.
A powerful archconfraternity of Saint Roch still exists today and flourishes.