The Roman Catholic Church, the largest single religious body in the world with over 1.1 billion members is commemorating the death of one of its saints, St. Roch (better known in the Philippines and in Hispanic countries as San Roque), the patron saint of plagues, pestilence and AIDS.
In case you are not familiar with who San Roque is, he is the saint usually depicted in statue form in Catholic churches as the one with a walking stick on the left hand, while the other hand is pointing on to a wound on one of his knees with a dog sitting by his right side. This portrait of San Roque is usually mistaken as that of San Isidore the Laborer (San Isidro de Labrador) probably because of the term “Labrador,” which is also a term associated with a breed of canines.
Although historical accounts of his exact birth date and place, and details about his younger years are quite blurry, various sources have it that San Roque was born in the European city of Montpellier, which according to Wikipedia was at the time along the border of France.
When his parents died when he was twenty (his father was said to be a governor of Montpellier), San Roque relinquished all his properties to the poor, just like St. Francis of Assisi, and went on a pilgrimage to Rome. There he attended to those who were sick with various diseases at a time when Italy was badly hit by plagues.
Due to his constant contact with the plague victims, San Roque became ill himself. Fearing that he might spread his disease, he was driven out of the town and was forced to live in the forest. Isolated from the populace, San Roque would not have survived had it not for a dog who constantly brought him food and licked his wounds, eventually healing them.
He returned to his home city of Montpellier where he was arrested (he was accused of being a spy). Ironically, the orders came from his uncle who was then a governor of the city. It was said that his uncle did not recognize him and San Roque had failed to introduce himself to his uncle, which could have averted his imprisonment. San Roque died in prison on August 16, 1327.
Because of his life’s story, the Catholic Church named him patron of Dogs, Plague, Pestilence and AIDS.
Drawing inspiration from San Roque and his dog’s moving story, media giant GMA Network is set to launch a television fantasy-drama series this September with a powerful story that will surely touch the hearts of adults and children alike.
The series, entitled “Aso ni San Roque,” will be top-billed by LJ Reyes and TJ Trinidad, Mona Louise Rey and Eddie Garcia with guest appearance by new kapuso Rafael Rossel.