By Ada Escopete
Scarcely 32 years old when he died, it is generally accepted that Saint Roch (San Roque) was born about 1295 in Montpellier, France and died in 1327. St. Roch was the only child of rich and noble parents in southern France. John, his father, descendant of the kings of France, was also governor of their home city of Montpellier. He and his wife, Libera, were good Christian people. They had one cross. It was that they were aging and still childless. God at length heard their prayer. In due time a child was born, a boy, whom they named Roch, (pronounced rock).
Roch responded to the virtuous training his parents gave him. He was twenty when the turning point came to his life. It was the death of his parents. First there was his Christian father. He had hardly laid his aged father to rest amid the pomp due his rank and fortune, when Almighty God asked of him also the sacrifice of the dearest soul he still had on earth, his good mother.
Led by the loss of his parents, he renounced his principality and whatever property there was in favor of his uncle. The rest of his rich inheritance he sold and distributed among the poor. He kept nothing for himself but a "PILGRIM'S GARB" and pittance. It is not known how he meant to spend his life; only that his thought for the time being was of making a pilgrimage to Rome, to visit the tomb of the Apostles.
Secretly he stole away and went to Rome. There he satisfied his devotion to the holy Apostles. But he found more of the same kind of work waiting for him there. The mortality from the plague was frightful in Rome.
To all other suffering, there was now added that of complete abandonment by everybody when they should have helped him in his need as he had helped them in theirs.
But God did not abandon him. Tradition has it that rainfall helped refresh him and slaked his thirst, and when he at length felt the appetite for something to eat, a well-groomed hound appeared with a fresh roll between his teeth.
Learning that the plague had flared up again in Piacenza, yet hardly able to get about, he went to town daily to tend the victims, returning each night to his dilapidated hut.
Miraculous happenings followed Roch's death. Not only did the governor and all the surviving members of the relationship come forward to acknowledge their kinsman with a magnificent funeral, there was a steady issue of cures upon invocation of his name. A special church was built to enshrine the remains. Many years later in 1414, when the plague broke out at the General Council of Constance, it was a ready thought to invoke the aid of the saintly "pilgrim." His image was carried about in procession with the astounding result that the plague abated at once. The fame of this event was spread by the members of the Council to every corner of Europe and devotion to Roch increased rapidly.
The images of St. Roch show him either ministering to the sick or alone, attired in pilgrim's cloak and cap. A staff is in his hand, with the traditional pilgrim's wallet, sometimes indicated as· a scallop on his shoulder. A dog is at his side, recalling the story of his rescue on the Trebbia at Piacenza. At times, he points to a mark on his side or his thigh, indicating either the storied birthmark or the pain which attacked him at Piacenza.
Today, we pray to him in the Oratio Imperata to deliver us from the Covid-19 pandemic. Saint Roch, pray for us!