Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Il Mio Onomastico

Only when a text message arrived on my cellphone this morning -- from Geneva, of all places -- was I reminded that today is St Roch's Day.... Of course, some of you know him better as St Rocco; despite the name, I'm nowhere near as saintly; and, yes, I do keep a statue of him somewhere in the piles of things which is my bedroom.

So, who was he, you ask?
He is said to have been found at birth miraculously marked with a red cross-shaped birthmark on the left side of his chest. As a young child, St. Rocco showed great devotion to God and the Blessed Mother. He was orphaned when he was twenty and left under the care of his uncle, the Duke of Montpellier. Soon after, St. Rocco distributed his wealth among the poor and took a vow of poverty, setting out on a pilgrimage to Rome.
The last part sounds about right....
At Piacenza, St. Rocco himself was stricken with the plague, which was evident by an open sore on his leg. He was banished from the city, and took refuge either in a cave or hut in the neighboring forest, sleeping on leaves and drinking water from a small stream. Miraculously, a dog that refused to eat faithfully brought him bread as a means of sustenance. The dog’s owner and Lord of the castle, a gentleman named Gothard, followed his dog into the woods one day and discovered St. Rocco there. The nobleman had pity on him and brought him to his castle, where St. Rocco was cured.

After he recovered, St. Rocco was reputed to have performed many more miracles of healing. He traveled through northern Italy for two or three more years before returning to his birthplace in France. Upon his return to Montpellier, however, he was imprisoned for five years as a spy in pilgrim’s disguise by his own uncle, who was governor and who failed to recognize him (while St. Rocco, for his part, refused to identify himself). According to the legend, on August 16, 1378, a guard entered his cell and found St. Rocco near death. The dungeon was illuminated with a blue light radiating from his body. Upon hearing this, the governor demanded to know St. Rocco’s identity. St. Rocco faintly replied, “I am your nephew, Rocco.” Only one thing could prove that, so the governor had St. Rocco disrobed and the red cross-like mark was visible on the left side of his chest.
A little bizarre for my tastes -- but still good to know. That said, I celebrate the two Petrine feasts as my principal ones.

There's a prayer to him here... and if you use it, please keep me in mind while doing so.

On a brief housekeeping note, I'm wailing away at the e.mails which have piled up over the last week. Above and beyond the sanity which comes with being able (for once) to chip away at my long-overdue bills, the fund drives have always been a real blessing in that I hear from readers who otherwise never check in, so know how grateful I am for that. As I've just been deluged and am merely trying to keep my head above water, if you've dropped me a line and haven't yet heard from me, you will soon enough... all thanks, please be patient and, of course, keep it comin'.

Happy St Rocco's Day to you all.