Born to nobility at Montpelier, France, around 1340, St. Rocco had a red cross-shaped birthmark on his chest. His parents died when he was young. Infused with faith and charity, he gave away his wealth to the poor and took a vow of poverty.

Rocco devoted himself to helping plague victims and eventually contracted plague himself. Banished from the town, he lived in a cave where a dog brought him bread each day. The dog came from a nearby castle whose lord follwed the dog one day, found Rocco and brought him into his home where he recovered. Rocco then set off through northern Italy ministering to the poor before returning to his birthplace in France. Nobody recognized him and he didn’t reveal who he was. Thinking him a spy he was imprisoned for five years before dying in 1378.

Patron saint of dogs, those suffering the plague and invalids, Rocco’s feast day is on Aug. 16. He often is depicted with his left hand pointing to his left leg’s open sore. Another frequent image is St. Rocco in the company of a dog with a loaf of bread.

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