I first noticed a small dog sitting next to its owner at the front of the church. ~This was the very first time I had seen a dog attending Mass – but no-one seemed to be at all surprised by the dog’s intermittent requests for attention.
As Mass progressed I realised that that there were quite a few more dogs dotted about the pews, but I still had no idea that the parish was celebrating the feast day of the patron saint of dogs – St Rock.
Man’s (and woman’s) best friends received a special blessing at the end of the celebration. It really was lovely.
More of why I was at visiting the parish later, but it was a wonderful introduction to St Rock, who must have a special place in any dog owner’s heart.
St Rock is the patron saint not only of dogs, but of the plague, pestilence and AIDS as he devoted his entire life to victims of the plague.
He was also stricken with the plague and hid away in a remote forest, but miraculously survived by being fed every day by a dog from a nearby country estate bringing him a loaf of bread.
Once recovered St Rock travelled widely and finally returned to Montpellier but was accused of being a spy, was arrested and imprisoned by his uncle, who did not recognise him as a poor pilglrim. He remained in prison for five years and died in 1327.
Saint Rock is usually depicted with a dog beside him, with his habit slightly raised on one side so that a plague spot is distinctly seen on his leg.