In these uncertain times of Coronavirus, it is comforting to reflect on saints and martyrs who exhibited acts of kindness and compassion. The 14th century Italian Saint Roch (Rocco) is remembered as the patron saint of canines, epidemics and those falsely accused. Born into nobility, he became an orphan at age twenty. He immediately distributed all his worldly goods to the poor and set out on a pilgrimage to Rome. When he arrived, the plague ravaged Italy. He diligently worked in public hospitals where he attended the sick. During his ministry, he contracted the plague and was expelled from town. He retreated to the forest where he lived in a hut made of trees and brush. A spring of water miraculously appeared near his residence however; he nearly died of starvation until a nobleman’s dog brought him a loaf of bread. The dog licked his wounds healing them. The Count, following his hunting dog carrying bread to St. Roch, immediately became his acolyte.
On returning to town, he refused to reveal his identity to avoid worldly glory. Ironically, he was arrested as a spy and thrown into jail for five years where he eventually died. Legend is, before he died, an Angel placed a tablet of gold letters under his head which read “those who meekly call to St. Roch will not be hurt by any pestulence”. His feast day around the world is August 15th (the date of his death) and on September 9 (in Italy).