By Susan Ciancio
Today we celebrate the feast of a man who put his life and health in jeopardy to care for others. St. Roch was born to a noble family but renounced his wealth when he was 20 years old, after the death of his parents. He gave all his money to the poor and joined the Third Order of Franciscans. Roch then traveled and prayed.
During his travels, he would stop at different cities. At this time, the black plague was ravaging through the towns. Roch helped care for the poor and the sick. He prayed and made the sign of the cross over the people, never worrying about contracting the disease himself. Many were healed.
However, he soon contracted the disease. Knowing the risk it would be to someone to take care of him, he retreated into a forest to pray and die alone. But while he was there, a dog began coming every day. It brought him bread and licked his wounds.
Eventually, his health improved. He left the forest and felt called to return to his home. But not too long after he arrived, he was wrongly arrested and imprisoned for being a spy. He spent the next five years in jail, where he died after being abandoned and forgotten.
What can we do for others?
Doctors and nurses often forgo their own health to take care of others. But outside of the medical profession, not many will be faced with risking their own health while caring for other people. However, we are all charged—by God—with caring for those around us.
And there are so many who need our care. Look around at the people in your life or within your community. Are there elderly people? Lonely people? Single moms? Kids in hospitals with terminal illnesses?
I am guessing that every community has all of these people and more.
St. Roch didn’t have to give all of his belongings away. He didn’t have to wander and take care of the sick. But he did so out of love for his fellow human beings and because of his devotion to God. We can learn so much from his love, and we can strive to emulate that love in all we do.
Remember that Christ said that what we do for others, we also do for Him. He also said that what we did not do for others, we also did not do for Him. We cannot use as an excuse that we didn’t know someone was needy. Ignorance of the plight of others is not acceptable. We do know that there are needy people all around us, for they are everywhere.
How we choose to help others depends on our means, our ages, and our abilities. But we can all do something.
Today, I challenge you to examine the Corporal Works of Mercy and decide how you will honor both God and the example of St. Roch and do good for others. Will you feed or clothe the hungry? Care for the sick? Buy toys for needy families? Visit the imprisoned? And this doesn’t mean just those in jail. It could also mean the homebound or those in nursing homes. We all have certain gifts and talents. Let us use these to benefit others.
So as we look back on the love that St. Roch had for the poor and sick, let us pray that he intercedes on our behalf and guides us toward a life of service to others. Let us go to God in prayer to ask Him what He wants us to do for His needy children. And let us take action knowing that what we do for others, we also do for God.
St. Roch, pray for us!