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St. George (c 275-303)

April 23, 2017
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Sunday Morning Opera will return next week.  For a little inside baseball, I am in the process of writing murder mysteries.  My first is ready for final edits and publication.  The hero of my story is a world class operatic baritone, with the last name of St. George.

In this day and age, perhaps no saint represents the battle we are facing, not only against the evil of Islamic terror, but also secular terror.  St. George gave his life, rather than give up his faith, to bow and worship pagan gods.  He is my beloved patron saint.

“…Saint George (ca. 275/281 – 23 April 303) was, according to tradition, a Roman soldier from Syria Palaestina and a priest in the Guard of Diocletian, who is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic (Western and Eastern Rites), Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox churches. He is immortalized in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His memorial is celebrated on 23 April, and he is regarded as one of the most prominent military saints…”

St. George is the patron saint of soldiers, Aragon, Catalonia, England, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, India, Iraq, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Serbia and Russia, as well as the cities of Genoa, Amersfoort, Beirut, Fakiha, Bteghrine, Cáceres, Ferrara, Freiburg, Kumanovo, Ljubljana, Pomorie, Preston, Qormi, Rio de Janeiro, Lod, Barcelona, Moscow, Tamworth and the Maltese island of Gozo, as well as a wide range of professions, organizations and disease sufferers.

“...In the year AD 302, Diocletian (influenced by Galerius) issued an edict that every Christian soldier in the army should be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the Pagan gods. But George objected and with the courage of his faith approached the Emperor and ruler. Diocletian was upset, not wanting to lose his best Tribune and the son of his best official, Gerontius. George loudly renounced the Emperor’s edict, and in front of his fellow soldiers and Tribunes he claimed himself to be a Christian and declared his worship of Jesus Christ. Diocletian attempted to convert George, even offering gifts of land, money and slaves if he made a sacrifice to the Roman gods. The Emperor made many offers, but George never accepted.

Recognizing the futility of his efforts, Diocletian was left with no choice but to have him executed for his refusal. Before the execution George gave his wealth to the poor and prepared himself. After various torture sessions, including laceration on a wheel of swords in which he was resuscitated three times, George was executed by decapitation before Nicomedia’s city wall, on April 23, 303. A witness of his suffering convinced Empress Alexandra and Athanasius, a pagan priest, to become Christians as well, and so they joined George in martyrdom. His body was returned to Lydda in Palestine for burial, where Christians soon came to honour him as a martyr….”

St. George is also the patron saint of The Pink Flamingo  He is also ” the patron saint of England; his cross forms the national flag of England, and features within the Union Jack of the United Kingdom. Traces of the cult of Saint George in England predate the Norman Conquest in the eleventh century; by the fourteenth century the saint had been declared both the patron saint and the protector of the royal family.”

My friend Carol has been teaching me about the saints.  Having grown up Presbyterian and later Baptist (that’s where the boys were!) patron saints were simply not allowed.  Carol has taught me otherwise.  She told me I would know who my saint was.  Through an interesting series of coincidences, my feeling that St. George was my saint was reinforced.

Carol and St. Anthony have a “thing” going on.  I can dig that.  I’m starting to understand.  Several months ago I finally found a small statue of St. George.  I keep him on the counter between my kitchen in dining room, where I write.  He has become very special to me.

If Mary Magdalene was the victim of misunderstanding, George is the object of a vast amount of imagination. There is every reason to believe that he was a real martyr who suffered at Lydda in Palestine, probably before the time of Constantine. The Church adheres to his memory, but not to the legends surrounding his life.

That he was willing to pay the supreme price to follow Christ is what the Church believes. And it is enough.

The story of George’s slaying the dragon, rescuing the king’s daughter and converting Libya is a twelfth-century Italian fable. George was a favorite patron saint of crusaders, as well as of Eastern soldiers in earlier times. He is a patron saint of England, Portugal, Germany, Aragon, Catalonia, Genoa and Venice.

Comment:

Human nature seems unable to be satisfied with mere cold historical data. Americans have Washington and Lincoln, but we somehow need Paul Bunyan, too. The life of St. Francis of Assisi is inspiring enough, but for centuries the Italians have found his spirit in the legends of the Fioretti, too. Santa Claus is the popular extension of the spirit of St. Nicholas. Both fact and legend are human ways of illumining the mysterious truth about the One who alone is holy.

Quote:

“When we look at the lives of those who have faithfully followed Christ, we are inspired with a new reason for seeking the city which is to come” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 50).

Patron Saint of:

Boy Scouts
England
Germany
Portugal
Soldiers
The Pink Flamingo

The story:

“...A church built in Lydda during the reign of Constantine I (reigned 306–337), was consecrated to “a man of the highest distinction”, according to the church history of Eusebius of Caesarea; the name of the patron was not disclosed, but later he was asserted to have been George.

By the time of the Muslim conquest in the seventh century, a basilica dedicated to the saint in Lydda existed

The church was destroyed in 1010 but was later rebuilt and dedicated to Saint George by the Crusaders. In 1191 and during the conflict known as the Third Crusade (1189–1192), the church was again destroyed by the forces of Saladin, Sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty (reigned 1171–1193). A new church was erected in 1872 and is still standing.

During the fourth century the veneration of George spread from Palestine through Lebanon to the rest of the Eastern Roman Empire -though the martyr is not mentioned in the Syriac Breviarium[30]- and Georgia. In Georgia the feast day on November 23 is credited to St Nino of Cappadocia, who in Georgian hagiography is a relative of St George, credited with bringing Christianity to the Georgians in the fourth century. By the fifth century the cult of Saint George had reached the Western Roman Empire as well: in 494, George was canonized as a saint by Pope Gelasius I, among those “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to [God].”

In England the earliest dedication to George, who was mentioned among the martyrs by Bede, is a church at Fordington, Dorset, that is mentioned in the will of Alfred the Great. “Saint George and his feast day began to gain more widespread fame among all Europeans, however, from the time of the Crusades.”The St. George’s flag, a red cross on a white field, was adopted by England and the City of London in 1190 for their ships entering the Mediterranean to benefit from the protection of the Genoese fleet during the Crusades and the English Monarch paid an annual tribute to the Doge of Genoa for this privilege.

An apparition of George heartened the Franks at the siege of Antioch, 1098, and made a similar appearance the following year at Jerusalem. Chivalric military Order of St. George were established in Aragon (1201), Genoa, Hungary, and by Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor, and in England the Synod of Oxford, 1222 declared St. George’s Day a feast day in the kingdom of England. Edward III put his Order of the Garter under the banner of St. George, probably in 1348. The chronicler Froissart observed the English invoking St. George as a battle cry on several occasions during the Hundred Years’ War. In his rise as a national saint George was aided by the very fact that the saint had no legendary connection with England, and no specifically localized shrine, as of Thomas Becket at Canterbury: “Consequently, numerous shrines were established during the late fifteenth century,” Muriel C. McClendon has written,”and his did not become closely identified with a particular occupation or with the cure of a specific malady.”

The establishment of George as a popular saint and protective giant in the West that had captured the medieval imagination was codified by the official elevation of his feast to a festum duplex at a church council in 1415, on the date that had become associated with his martyrdom, 23 April. There was wide latitude from community to community in celebration of the day across late medieval and early modern England, and no uniform “national” celebration elsewhere, a token of the popular and vernacular nature of George’s cultus and its local horizons, supported by a local guild or confraternity under George’s protection, or the dedication of a local church. When the Reformation in England severely curtailed the saints’ days in the calendar, St. George’s Day was among the holidays that continued to be observed.

Patron saints are strange thing.  I did not really believe in patron saints until a dear friend began telling me about them.  I told her if I did have a patron saint, it would be St. George.  Not long after, she called, saying she was going out of town, but had a book for me, for Easter.  I was not able to pick it up until April 23.  Out of curiosity, I decided to see who the patron saint for the day was.  It was St. George!

This leads me to wax poetic about my favorite hymn.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the Holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

Then, this leads me to wax poetic, and listen to my favorite hymn, the way it should be sung, the last night of the proms.

Your servant George is a sign for us of the beauty of those who slay dragons, follow the quest for a world of justice and peace; who live nobly and are unafraid. The white-robed army of martyrs praise you: Throughout the world the holy church acclaims you.

We pray that we may find our quest in life, that young people may dream dreams and see visions, that none may be bound by unemployment or lack of opportunity. The white-robed army of martyrs praise you: Throughout the world the holy church acclaims you.

We pray that all humanity may live with nobility and dignity, that all will be freed from those things that diminish your image in us, the misuse of bodies or minds. The white-robed army of martyrs praise you: Throughout the world the holy church acclaims you.

We pray that we may always travel the journey in our souls that brings us closer to you; that we may grow in holiness and love, forsaking what is familiar and safe and waging the battle against selfishness. The white-robed army of martyrs praise you: Throughout the world the holy church acclaims you.

There are those who claim St. George was more of a mythical character, the son of a noble family form Cappadocia, in Turkey. Then there are other legends that say he was born of a Greek Christian noble family in Lydda, in Palestine in 285AD. He was raised as a Christian. When he was 14 his father, Gerontios, who was a military officer from Cappadocia, died. His mother, Polychronia died a few years later.

With his background, he went to Nicomedia, an imperial city, and presented himself to Emperor Diocletian, who had known has father. Because of his father’s reputation, he was immediately accepted into the imperial military, and an imperial guard, quickly rising to the rank of Tribunus. The rank alone tells us about his status in life. He was literally on a fast track to the Roman Senate.

“...In the year AD 302, Diocletian (influenced by Galerius) issued an edict that every Christian soldier in the army should be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods of the time. However, George objected, and with the courage of his faith approached the Emperor and ruler. Diocletian was upset, not wanting to lose his best tribune and the son of his best official, Gerontius. But George loudly renounced the Emperor’s edict, and in front of his fellow soldiers and tribunes he claimed himself to be a Christian and declared his worship of Jesus Christ. Diocletian attempted to convert George, even offering gifts of land, money and slaves if he made a sacrifice to the Roman gods; he made many offers, but George never accepted.

Recognizing the futility of his efforts and insisting on upholding his edict, Diocletian was left with no choice but to have George executed for his refusal. Before the execution George gave his wealth to the poor and prepared himself. After various torture sessions, including laceration on a wheel of swords in which he was resuscitated three times, George was executed by decapitation before Nicomedia’s city wall, on 23 April 303. A witness of his suffering convinced Empress Alexandra and Athanasius, a pagan priest, to become Christians as well, and so they joined George in martyrdom. His body was returned to Lydda for burial, where Christians soon came to honour him as a martyr…”

Enough is known of the historical St. George to prove the actual biographical facts of his life. It’s when they get into the dragon slaying part of things that it gets a little interesting. I like the hunky image I’ve used, not just because it puts a whole new spin on the term ‘patron saint’ but also is illustrative of what some think was the dragon – actually a crocodile, that he killed. I like that one.

For Saint George and all who battled for Christ:
For martyrs known and unknown.
We praise you, O God.
We acclaim you as the Lord.

For all whose task it is to battle for truth:
For journalists, scientists and philosophers.
We praise you, O God.
We acclaim you as the Lord.

For all who battle for justice for the poor, the oppressed and the victimised:
For all who work to free those condemned to death.
We praise you, O God.
We acclaim you as the Lord.

For all who battle for peace in places of conflict:
For all who restore relationships and bring reconciliation.
We praise you, O God.
We acclaim you as the Lord.

For those who battle addictions and dependencies:
For all who fight to live freely and unafraid.
We praise you, O God.
We acclaim you as the Lord.

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4 Comments

  • jose maria says:

    My baptismal saint is St Therese of Lisieux and my confirmation saint is St Rita, both good choices. It has been said that if you ask for the intercession of St Therese be sure the favor is what you want because she is a very powerful intercessor. She said when she got to heaven she “would let fall a shower of roses.” Whenever I have prayed novenas to St Therese, at some time during the nine days she will send me a sign that my prayers are being heard. In some mysterious way I will get a rose, even it comes on a card through the mail. During my last novena, one of my neighbors came over and brought me a rose from her yard. Whenever I pray very hard I always look for a sign from her.

  • SJ Reidhead says:

    Wow! Thank you for sharing that.

    SJR

  • jose maria says:

    This was the Entrance Antiphon at mass this morning for the feast day of St. George. “This is the one who was not deserted by God on the day of struggle and now wears a crown of victory for faithfulness to the Lord’s command”…… I also remember this one after reading your post “St George he was for England, St Denis was for France; Sing honi soit qui mal y pense!…God advice don’t you think?

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