The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, October 08, 2004  

And Mine

This is the kind of thing people with housemates do at three o'clock in the morning.

Earlier today (by which I mean 3:00 a.m.) my housemate M.D. and I were talking about the Catholic tradition of assigning "patron" saints to various ailments, professions, localities, and the like. With my dog Mildred sweetly snoring nearby, I wondered aloud who, if anyone, is considered the patron saint of bulldogs. I knew St. Francis of Assisi long has been regarded as the patron saint of animals, and Mildred, like many Catholic pets, used to wear a (priestly blessed) St. Francis medal on her collar. Until it fell off. Beyond that knowledge, I drew a blank.

We hit the web to see if we could determine whether bulldogs, as a breed, had been blessed with their own patron saint.

Upon checking the most reliable site on the subject of which I am aware, that maintained by the Catholic Forum, we learned that while there is no patron saint of bulldogs specifically, there are three saints to whom Catholics traditionally have turned for the patronage of their canines: Saint Hubert of Liege, Saint Roch, and Saint Vitus.

After reading the brief biographies and histories of these three saints, M.D. and I quickly, and rather easily, decided Saint Roch is the best choice for Mildred.

Here's why.

According to Catholic Forum, Saint Roch (born 1295, Montpelier, France; died 1327, Monpelier or Angleria, France; memorial: August 16) was a French nobleman who early in life developed a sympathy for the poor and the sick.

"While on pilgrimage, Roch encountered an area afflicted with plague," the web site reports. "He stayed to minister to the sick, and affected [sic] several miraculous cures, but contracted the plague himself. He walked into a forest to die, but was befriended by a dog. The dog fed him with food stolen from his master's table, and Roch eventually recovered."

Emphasis added, though in this case, I don't think it's really necessary.

(Incidentally, St. Roch is among more than a dozen saints considered patrons of bachelors, of which I am one.)

Once we determined St. Roch would be Mildred's patron saint, the discussion turned to the name Mildred itself, along with almost simultaneous talk of my own patrons: Saints Anthony, Jude, Rita, and Dymphna, each chosen for various reasons.

"I know there's a Saint Mildred," I said, "but I don't know what she's the patron of."

Well, as it happens, we learned from piecing together information from several web sites that Saint Mildred is among the patron saints of, get this: the poor, the destitute, and social outcasts.

Someone, somewhere, is trying to tell me something.

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