A Garner of Saints – Saint Roch

17th century wooden statue of Saint Roch, artist unknown; photographed on 11 March 2012 by Palminellafede; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Born at Montpellier about the end of the thirteenth century. His parents had for a long time lived without having any children, but God gave them this son in answer to the prayers of the mother. The child early displayed his religious leanings, and noted and practised fasting from his earliest days. His parents having died before he had reached the age of twenty, he distributed the wealth which he inherited from them as secretly as possible, and, habited as a pilgrim, set out towards Rome. On reaching a place called Aquapendente he learned that the plague had broken out with great violence and immediately went to the hospital to offer his services. Admitted here, he touched the patients with his right hand, making the sign of the cross, and thus healed them all. In this manner he passed from town to town healing all who were stricken and being regarded as an angel of God. Arrived at Rome he found the great city plunged in desolation by the terrible Visitation. Here he pursued the same methods and inspired the utmost confidence, the sick using every possible effort to place themselves in his path. As the plague was abroad in the country districts, Saint Roch went thither also, performing similar prodigies. In the hospital of Piacenza he fell asleep one day and heard a voice telling him that he would be called upon to suffer pain. On awaking he felt an acute pain in his left thigh and could hardly refrain from crying out. He had himself taken the plague. Leaving the hospital he refused to re-enter it, and the people, believing him to be mad, chased him out of the town. He dragged himself with the help of his staff, to a neighbouring forest, and took refuge in a small hut, praying the Lord not to desert him. That instant a cloud descended from heaven on to the ground, and on the spot where it rested a fountain of water welled up, from which he drank and where he washed. Near the forest was a village to which many men had withdrawn on account of the plague, among them being a man named Gothard, who kept a number of servants and dogs for hunting. One day as he was sitting at table one of these dogs came and took a piece of bread from his hand, carrying it to Saint Roch, and he did the same at dinner and at supper. The master, thinking that the animal had been starved, scolded his servants, but finding that the dog was taking the bread to some person, he followed him and came upon Saint Roch. The saint informed Gothard that he had the plague, upon which he went home, but returned on the following day, on reflecting that he had shown himself less merciful than his dog, and resolved to remain with the saint until he should be healed. However, the dog ceased to bring the bread, and as they became disquieted, Roch told his friend to put on the pilgrim’s habit and go to ask alms. But the people only mocked and derided him, so that he brought back no more than two loaves. Then Roch went into Piacenza and healed the sick in the houses as well as in the hospital. As he retumed he was followed by a great multitude, and heard a voice saying that his prayer was answered, that he was cured of the plague and must return to his own country to practise penance. Accordingly he went back to Montpellier in his pilgrim’s habit. Now the whole country was desolated by war, and as he was praying in a church, he was arrested as a spy, and being brought before his uncle who did not know him, he was cast into prison. The place was foul and infested by scorpions, but he lived a life of voluntary austerity in it, without a complaint. After he had been detained there for five years, God revealed to him his approaching end, so that he sent for a priest. When the priest came he found the cell illuminated by a heavenly light, while rays of glory shone from the prisoner’s eyes. The noise of this marvel spread, and people came from all parts to see the holy man. Soon after he fell asleep and heard a voice offering to grant him whatever he might ask, and he prayed that all those who sought his assistance might be delivered from the plague. Placing himself on the ground, he lifted his eyes to heaven and rendered his soul to God on 16th August 1327, at the age of thirty-two. At that same moment a great light passed through the windows, to the astonishment of the gaoler, who opened the door and saw the saint stretched on the ground, lamps burning at his head and his feet, while at his side there rested a small board on which was written, “All those who are smitten with the plague and who have recourse to the intercession of Roch will be delivered from that malady.” The body was buried with great pomp in the principal church of the town, at the expense of the uncle, who had come to recognise his error after it was too late. When the great council was being held at Constance, in the year 1414, the plague broke out there and the bishops proposed to depart. However, a young German, being inspired by God, advised them to carry the image of Saint Roch through the town, and when they had done this the plague was immediately stayed. The remains were afterwards stolen and carried off to Venice, where the church of San Rocco was erected in his honour. Patron saint against the plague. 16th August.

Attributes

  • Dressed as a pilgrim, the thigh exposed and showing a wound or plague spot; at his feet a dog carrying bread.

MLA Citation

  • Allen Banks Hinds, M.A. “Saint Roch”. A Garner of Saints, 1900. CatholicSaints.Info. 26 April 2017. Web. 27 July 2017. <>