SAN ROCCO, CONFESSOR
Three years of famine, three months of defeat, three days of pestilence: the guilty David’s choice between these three measures of atonement, manifests them as equivalent for the justice of God. The terrible scourge which wreaks more havoc in three days than in months and years, famine or a disastrous war, clearly showed that it kept its gloomy preeminence in the fourteenth century of our era; the black plague covered the world with a mantle of mourning, and took away a third of its inhabitants. Never before had the earth deserved the terrible warning better: the graces of holiness poured out in profusion in the preceding century were convinced that they had only one day stopped the defection of peoples; any dyke now broken showed the inevitable rising tide of schism, reform, and revolution that the world must die of.
He appears marked with a cross at his birth. As a young man, he distributed his goods to the poor, and leaving family and country, he became a pilgrim for Christ. Italy, whose sanctuaries had attracted him, offered him its cities devastated by the horrible plague; Rosh settled among the dead and dying, burying them, healing others with the sign of the cross. Seized with evil himself, he slips away to suffer alone; a dog brings him his food. When healed by God, he returned to Montpellier, his hometown, to be arrested there as a spy, thrown for five years in a dungeon where he died. Such are your ways in your elect, O Wisdom of God! But immediately wonders erupted, manifesting its origin and its history, revealing the power with which it will remain endowed to deliver from the plague those who will have recourse to it.
The reputation of its credit, increased with each return of contagions by new benefits, made its popular cult. Although the feast of Saint Roch is not universal, we owe it this short notice. It will be supplemented by the Legend and the Oration that we borrow from the proper Offices for some places given following the Roman Breviary.
Life. – The historically exact life of San Rocco has not yet been written and it will be very difficult, for a long time, to distinguish what is historical and what is legendary in the Legenda Sancii Rochi, written by Francesco Diedo in 1478, long after his death of the saint.
Born in Montpellier around 1300, having lost his parents before the age of 20, he left to go as a pilgrim to the tomb of the Apostles. Moving to Acquapendente, where the plague was raging, he stopped there to devote himself to the assistance of the dying and then, moving to Rome, he was in the service of a Cardinal. Wonderful healings manifested how much God accepted the zeal of the blessed; he delivered by the sign of the cross from the peril of death a very great number of those whom the plague had struck, and restored them to perfect health. Returning to his homeland, he fell ill and, not wanting to be dependent on anyone, he hid in a forest where he received the necessary nourishment from a dog. Upon returning to Montpellier, he was mistaken for a criminal and thrown into prison and forgotten there. He died in prison five years later, and God then manifested his holiness with miracles, until he became one of the most popular and most honored saints. The veneration of the faithful immediately followed his demise. According to what is reported, it subsequently received a large increase at the Council of Constance, when, to ward off a threatening contagion, the image of Roch followed by all the people was solemnly carried by the city with the approval of the bishops. This is why his cult spread wonderfully all over the world, where popular religion adopted him as a patron near God against epidemics. What having weighed maturely, the Sovereign Pontiff Urban VIII allowed that, in the places where there would be churches consecrated to God under the name of Saint Roch, one celebrates the feast and the Office.
In your goodness, we beg you, O Lord, always defend your people for the merits of St. Roch, from all contagions of soul and body.