“Are you a dog person or a cat person?” Not to get too philosophical on you, but this is one of the fundamental questions of human existence. A question that, had the Supreme Executive Committee in its infinite wisdom chosen the other Saint Gertrude (“of Nivelles” rather than “the Great”), could have perhaps been decided once and for all. You see today Roch, the patron saint of dogs, takes on Gertrude, the patron saint of…not cats but…the West Indies. Alas.
Of course, there are other criteria on which to base your decision as you seek to choose between a 14th century Frenchman and a 13th century German woman. Like whether you prefer cabernet to beer or croissants to pretzels. But enough of these European stereotypes!
Yesterday, in the most lopsided battle of the year, Joseph trounced Christina Rossetti, sending her into her personal “bleak midwinter,” 79% to 21%. He’ll face Absalom Jones in the Saintly Sixteen.
This is the last battle of the first full week of Lent Madness 2016. Save your voting energy, folks, and we’ll see you bright and early on Monday morning as Columba takes on Kateri Tekakwitha.
Roch (Rock in English) is known as the patron saint of dogs, falsely accused people, and plagues. Many legends surround the saint, who was born in 1350 in Montpellier, France, to a rich merchant family. According to one legend, God touched Roch at birth, leaving the mark of a red cross on his breast. Rejecting his father’s directive to become a governor of their town following his father’s death, Roch instead sold his possessions and began a pilgrimage to Italy. During his journey, he passed through a town stricken by the plague. Roch miraculously cured the inhabitants with touch and the sign of the cross. Unfortunately, he was unable to prevent himself from contracting the plague, and stories say he fled to the wilderness to die.
As Roch was lying in pain, a dog appeared to him in a clearing. The dog began licking his sores and nurturing him to health. A water source sprang up beside him. Popular iconography of Roch shows him afflicted with sores and a dog by his side.
When Roch healed, he returned home. Unfortunately, his uncle, the governor, did not recognize him and threw Roch in prison as a spy. For five years, Roch lived in the prison without revealing his identity. It was not until he died that people recognized him by the cross-shaped birthmark on his breast. Following his death, the people of the village wept and gnashed their teeth in loss and regret, and a group of followers of Roch sprang up in Montpellier. Seeing the popularity of Roch, the Roman Church built the Church of San Rocco in Venice and entombed his remains.
Collect for Roch
Merciful Jesus, you know our deepest sorrows and aches and offer us comfort through your love and companionship. Thank you for the ministry and miracles of your loyal servant, Roch, who sought to comfort the sick and infirm for the sake of your love. Create in us hearts full of compassion and love that we would be agents of your healing and love in a broken world. Amen.
Little is known of Gertrude’s early life except that she was born in 1256. She entered school at the monastery of St. Mary at Helfta at the young age of four. While some speculate that her parents offered her to the Church as a child oblate (a person dedicated to a life in God’s service), another theory is that she was an orphan. In the monastery school, Gertrude was under the care of Saint Mechtilde, the younger sister of the monastery’s abbess, Gertrude of Hackeborn.
Gertrude joined the monastic community in 1266. Her later writing shows that she was well educated in rhetoric and Latin. Gertrude began to experience visions at the age of twenty-five. She shifted her study from the secular to focus on scripture and theology and devoted herself to a life of prayer and meditation. Wanting to share her experiences and dedication to God, Gertrude began writing spiritual treatises for her monastic sisters and became a spiritual counselor to whom people flocked for advice.
Gertrude produced numerous writings, although only a few survive today. The longest piece still in existence is The Herald of Divine Love. Partly written by Gertrude and partly written by other nuns, The Herald is composed of five books. Book Two, written by Gertrude, forms the core of the work. It includes vivid descriptions of Gertrude’s visions, including details on the veneration of Christ’s heart.
Gertrude died at Helfta, near Eisleben, Saxony (Germany) around 1302. While Gertrude is now regarded as one of the great mystics of the thirteenth century, she was not broadly remembered after her death until the Latin edition of her work was published in 1536.
Collect for Gertrude
Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge, and to another the insight of wisdom, and to another the steadfastness of faith. We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant Gertrude, and we pray that by her teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge of the truth we have seen in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Roch vs. Gertrude
- Roch (53%, 3,640 Votes)
- Gertrude (47%, 3,212 Votes)
Total Voters: 6,852