St. Roch, also known as St. Rocco (c. 1295-1327), was a nobleman from Montpellier, France, the only son of the wealthy governor of the city.
St. Roch was born with an unusual and deep red mark on his chest in the shape of a cross, a sign that the Blessed Virgin Mary had heard and answered his mother’s prayers for her barrenness to be healed. As a child St. Roch was deeply religious, fasting twice a week after the example of his pious mother. His parents died when he was twenty years of age, after which he gave his inheritance to the poor, handed the government of the city over to his uncle, and began a new life as a poor mendicant pilgrim.
Free from all earthly cares, St. Roch joined the Third Order Franciscans, donned the familiar pilgrim’s garb (a common practice of popular piety at the time) and set out on a pilgrimage to visit and pray at the holy places in Rome.
When he came upon the town of Acquapendente near Viterbo, he saw that it was badly struck by the black plague which was wreaking havoc across Europe. He sojourned there for a time to care for the sick both in private homes and in the hospitals—even though doing so was dangerous for himself.
Instead of contracting the highly contagious disease, St. Roch cured many people by simply making the Sign of the Cross over them. He continued his charitable work until the disease was halted from spreading further in the village, after which he continued on his pilgrimage. His miraculous healing power evidenced itself in the same manner in every plague-infested town that he passed through on his way to Rome, and also in Rome itself.
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