Saint Roch (pronounced Rock) was born with a distinctive red cross birthmark on his chest in 1295 at Montpellier, France. He was only 32 years old when he died in 1327.
Born into a wealthy family, Saint Roch lost his parents at the age of 20. He divested himself of all their wealth, distributing it among the poor and gave the family property to an uncle. Roch became a mendicant pilgrim and set off for Rome. The plague had started spreading through Italy and the first town Roch entered he found the inhabitants stricken with illness. He was drawn to assist them and spent his days in the hospital tending to patients and his nights in their homes caring for the ill. His virtue and holiness was immediately made manifest by a multitude of victims that were instantly cured after having been cared for by him.
Wanting to avoid the adulation of the residents Roch snuck out of town one night and continued his pilgrimage to Rome but whatever town he entered the same scenario played out – plague stricken victims were miraculously cured by his touch.
It was the same as he traveled through Cesena, Modena, Rome, Parma, and finally Piacenza, where Roch, himself, was finally felled by the plague.
After spending some time in a hut in Piacenza suffering from the effects of the illness he made his way back home to France only to find the region at war. The disease had so ravaged his body that he was not recognized and, suspected of being a spy, he was thrown in jail where he languished for five years until his death. It was only when he was being prepared for burial that the red cross birthmark on his chest was discovered, identifying him as the prince-heir that had left years before and had become known as the mendicant healer.
He was given a nobleman’s burial and many were cured at his funeral.
When a new wave of the plague began sweeping through Europe in 1414 the Saint’s relics were processed throughout the region and the the plague abated instantly. Saint Roch continues to care for those suffering from plague and epidemic. We call upon him today,
O Blessed Saint Roch,
Patron of the sick,
Have pity on those
Who lie upon a bed of suffering.
Your power was so great
When you were in this world,
That by the sign of the Cross,
Many were healed of their diseases.
Now that you are in heaven,
Your power is not less.
Offer, then, to God
Our sighs and tears
And obtain for us that health we seek
Through Christ our Lord.
(Repeat the following 3 times)
Saint Roch, pray for us,
That we may be preserved
From all diseases of body and soul.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has asked that we pray the Rosary, including two Marian prayers that he has written, in crying out to heaven in our distress of these days and to end the pandemic. Let us join our prayers with his.
How to Say the Rosary: