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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

St. George, April 23

By:   RTV
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St. George, April 23

RTV's 'Catholic Saints and Holy Days' pays homage to the great Saint George

Very little is known about the life of St. George. Pope Gelasius I stated that St. George was among those saints "whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose actions are known only to God.” According to tradition he was a member of the Praetorian Guard under the Roman emperor Diocletian who was sentenced to death for refusing to deny his Christian faith. Among the Greeks he is known as “The Great Martyr” and his feast day is kept as a holy day of obligation.

Widespread devotion to St George can be traced to the 5th century and the oldest church dedicated to him was built in the time of Constantine. He became one of the most venerated of the early saints, and he was especially invoked during the Crusades. In England, he was mentioned among the martyrs by the 8th-century monk Bede. Under the first Norman kings he was chosen as the Patron Saint of England and King Edward III founded an order of knights in his honor.

The medieval collection of Lives of the Saints, the well-known Golden Legend (The Legenda Aurea by Jacobus de Voragine) contains the familiar story of St. George and the Dragon. 

The town of Silene in Libya was plagued by a great dragon. The people offered it two sheep daily, then a man and a sheep, and finally their children, chosen by lottery. Then one day the king's daughter was chosen. The king offered all his gold to spare his daughter spared, but no one would take her place. The princess was sent out, dressed as a bride, to be fed to the dragon. Then, providentially, St. George arrived. The princess tried to send him away, but he vowed to save her. St. George made the Sign of the Cross and charged the dragon on horseback, seriously wounding it. The princess and St. George led the dragon back to the city.  He offered to kill the dragon if the people of the city would be baptized and become Christians. They consented and St. George killed the dragon. The king built a church on the spot and a miraculous spring flowed from its altar.

For centuries this story was believed and handed down by the faithful. Countless paintings and statues memorialize it. The country of Georgia and several other nations, states, cities, universities, professions and organizations all claim St. George as their patron. Only in modern times has the story of St. George and the Dragon come to be doubted, along with those of St. Christopher and St. Philomena. It is now considered by most people to be nothing more than a symbolic pious tale; there was no dragon. Pope Pius XII warned against this spirit, which begins by doubting that there was a serpent in the Garden of Eden, and ends by denying that Christ died on the Cross and arose from the dead.

St. George, pray for us.


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Last modified on Tuesday, April 23, 2019