On Saturday 23 April 2022, we celebrated the feast of St George. Pope Francis, who was baptized as Jorge (George) Mario Bergoglio, also celebrated his Name Day on April 23, the liturgical feast of St George the Martyr.
St George is the inspiration for loads of stories about him. We know the famous story of the saint who courageously saved a girl that was to be devoured by the heinous dragon. The story, which occurred in the city of Selem, modern day Libya, says that the inhabitants of the city, to appease the dragon, offered him two sheep a day and, later on, also a child drawn by lot. Once the king’s daughter was chosen to be devoured by the monster. However, on her way to her death, it happened that George went by and with his spear neutralized the dragon. Such a heroic act became the powerful symbol of faith which prevails over evil.
The historical St George, whose historical name means “farmer”, was born in Cappadocia around the year 280. After his enrolment to the army of Diocletian, he went to Palestine to serve there. In the year 303 emperor Diocletian published the edict of persecution against Christians. As a true follower of Christ the brave George gave all he had to the poor and, in front of Diocletian himself, he tore the document and boldly professed his faith in Christ. Such a magnificent act of courage was met by a harsh torture. In fact, George, after undergoing the most dreadful kind of torture was finally beheaded. Following his death, a basilica was erected over his grave in Lydda, modern-day Lod in Israel. One can visit his relics and pray before them today at the present church which was built in 1893.
Let us remind ourselves of the fabulous prayer St George prays before the emperor himself as the saint was placed on a wheel with exceedingly sharp spikes and glass nails and windlasses as we find marvelously written in the hagiographic apocryphal work Passio Georgii, decreed by Pope Gelasius in 496:
I am mindful of your commandments, Lord Jesus Christ, whose kingdom lasts to eternity and for an age of ages. The crown of the praising and suffering martyrs is both [their] joy and strength in you, holy Lord. Before you were making heaven and earth, you yourself are, whose spirit was borne upon the waters, and you were resting, you whom no man knew, nor was able to see your perpetual wisdom; Lord, you who established the earth and raised the vault of heaven and filled up the clouds, and you rain on the just and on the unjust, Lord, who established the earth and the mountains and everything through your power, and the hills and the fields, you who commanded the gathering of the winds, and those who did not have faith in you, you handed over into the deepest prison, O Lord my God, who in later times sent to us your only son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who enclosed his majesty within the chamber of a virgin’s womb, whom no man can understand, the only begotten son of God, Lord Jesus Christ, who walked on his feet across the waters of the sea, and the foot did not sink into the water, but his footsteps appeared on the sea as if on the most unyielding pavement. Who rules over the wind and the sea, and all things are subject to you. Who with five loaves fed five thousand men; and now, hear me O Lord, so that you might hasten and deliver me from the troubles which have surrounded me, because my soul relies on you and in the living God; to you be glory forever. Amen.
In front of such a moving faithful love for Jesus, may we pray to St George this beautiful prayer telling him with great faith, hope and love:
Saint George, heroic Catholic warrior and protector of your Faith, you risked criticizing a tyrannical ruler and were subjected to terrible torture. You could have held a high military position, but you prefer to die for your Lord, obtain for us the great grace of heroic Christian courage that should mark the soldiers of Christ. Amen.
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap