April 22, 2017

Saint George, the Patron of England

St. George and the dragon

April 23rd, is the optional memorial of Saint George. This year it is superseded by the Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. Some of the more colorful stories about this patron of England are not substantiated by fact, but that doesn’t mean that the legends surrounding St. George have any less power on the imagination. The most common depiction of the saint, in which he is slaying a dragon, persists, even though it first derived from a 12th century Italian fable.

What we can be fairly certain of is that George was a Christian, and a soldier, who was martyred on April 23, 303 AD, during the Emperor Diocletian's reign. The tradition which grew up about him revolves around his standing as a man-of-arms; the story of the dragon, for instance, comes from a tale in which St. George supposedly rescued a king’s daughter from being slain by a serpent.

As an example of the ideal of medieval knighthood, St. George became the patron of the Knights of the Garter, more properly known as the Knights of the Order of St. George. St. George’s Chapel, located in Windsor Castle, is its Mother Church and a service for members of the Order is still held there every June.

Extolling your might, O Lord, we humbly implore you, that, just as Saint George imitated the Passion of the Lord, so too may he lend us ready assistance in our weakness. Saint George, heroic Catholic soldier and defender of the Faith, you dared to criticize a tyrannical emperor and were subjected to horrific tortures. You could have occupied a high military rank, but you preferred to die for your Lord. Obtain for us the great grace of Christian courage that should distinguish soldiers of Christ. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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