There are two saints dog lover should be acquainted with. The first is Saint Rocco who is the patron saint of dogs, pandemics, falsely accused people and bachelors. The other saint is more on the humorous side; Saint Sithney, patron saint of mad dogs.
Saint Rocco – Patron Saint of Dogs
Saint Rocco is also known as Saint Rock (English version) or Saint Roch. In Germany he is known as Rochus and in Scotland they call him Rollox. His feast day is August 16th.
Rocco was born into a wealthy family in Montpellier, France in 1348. It was claimed that he had a unique birthmark on the left side of his chest; a red cross. His parents died when he was 20 years old.
He decided to give up his life of luxury and subsequently gave away his fortune to the poor. Rocco set off to Italy. His goal was Rome.
On his journey he stayed over in many small towns. The terrible plague still haunted many. Rocco showed no fear when he visited patients in agony. He made the sign of the cross on their forehead and nursed them back to health.
Soon he got a reputation of being a miraculous healer of the plague. His pilgrimage led him to Rome where he spent three years.
Rescued by a dog
After Rocco left Rome, he eventually arrived in the town called Piacenza. It was in this town he himself was infected by the plague.
Anticipating his death, he used all his strength to leave the town. Just outside of Piacenza Rocca settled in a cave and rested on a bed of leaves. He thought he would die, but fate had other plans for the plague struck pilgrim.
Out of nowhere a dog showed up with a piece of bread in his mouth. The same dog returned daily with the gift of bread, thus saving Rocco from starvation.
Meanwhile the dog’s owner took notice of the dog’s strange behavior; wandering out towards the woods every day carrying bread in its mouth. The owner decided to follow the dog and find out what was going on.
Long story short, the dog led him to Rocco. The man took pity on Rocco and took him home. Rocco was nursed back to health.
Rocco in prison
After he regained his health Rocco decided to return to Montpellier where his uncle was now the governor. Unfortunately, nobody in Montpellier recognized him. Rocco was accused of being an imposter. Some even suggested he was a spy.
Rocco was thrown into jail. He spent his last five years in prison. Upon his death his birthmark was finally discovered and the truth of his identity came out.
Death and Sainthood
Rocco died in 1380. After his death many claimed that miracles occurred by his grave. He was canonized by popular devotion and added to the Roman Martyrology by Pope Gregory XIV in 1591.
In paintings and statues, he is often shown pointing to a wound on his thigh, thus reminding everyone that a safe recovery from the plague is quite possible.
Saint Rocco also is easily recognized by the dog with a piece of bread in its mouth standing next to him.
Today there are churches all over the world named after Saint Rocco. The relics of this saint are in Chiesa di San Rocco (The Church of Saint Rocco) in Venice, Italy. All you dog lovers might want to visit this church if you are ever in Venice.
Patron Saint of Pandemics
Saint Rocco or Saint Rock as many prefer to call him, is also the saint many turn to for protection against plagues and pandemics. He had after all cured quite many people from the plague.
At that time many claimed he worked miracles. Patients had given up hope and were waiting only for death. Along comes Rocco and nursed them back to good health. He worked wonders.
As mentioned earlier, Saint Rocco is patron saint of dogs. In Italy and France, he is often turned to when physical illness strikes. He is also the patron saint of falsely accused people and bachelors.
There you have it; Saint Rocco certainly is a saint quite a few believers should take note of.
Patron Saint of Mad Dogs
Sithney is the patron saint of mad dogs. He is also known as Saint Sezni. We do not know for certain the details of his life, nor exactly when he was born or died.
He might have been an Irish missionary who came to Cornwall in South-West England sometime during the 5th or 6th century.
The legend of how he became the patron saint of mad dogs is somewhat funny. Here goes.
As it happened God was very satisfied with Sithney and decided he would make him a saint. One day God spoke to Sithney and revealed that he someday would become the saint of all young maidens seeking a husband.
Sithney was horrified. This he yelled was no honor. Imagine all the constant nagging of desperate young women. The prospect of dealing with despairing and demanding women forever more was unbearable. He would never have a moments rest.
In the heat of panic Sithney shouted out that he would rather be patron saint of mad dogs than unmarried women seeking a husband.
He was really just trying to point out how much he was against the idea. God listened and without hesitation replied he would grant the request. The discussion was over.
Sithney thereby became the patron saint of mad dogs. His feast day is August 4th.
In Sithney, Cornwall the is a church named after him; Sithney Church.