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St George
St George

St George

Feast Day
Apr 23, 2012
England, Boy Scouts, soldiers, horses, equestrians, knights, agricultural workers, archers, shepherd
<p>St. George is so associated with England that many may think he was an Englishman.&nbsp; However, St. George was not only <em>not</em> an Englishman, but he never even set foot on English soil!&nbsp; Instead, it is attested that he was born a Cappadocian (from a region in Asia Minor).&nbsp; A Christian knight, the legends surrounding St. George&rsquo;s life vary greatly, offering a portrait of a man whose courage, witness and zeal for Jesus Christ ultimately lead to his martyrdom.&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps the most widely recognized story about St. George has to do with his slaying of a dragon.&nbsp; Most of the iconography of this saint depicts him running through a large, monstrous reptile with a lance.&nbsp; The legend goes that St. George as a knight-errant was travelling through Lydia where he passed near a town called Sylene.&nbsp; This town was situated alongside a swampy area and had been terrorized for some time by a ghastly inhabitant of the swamp&mdash;a dragon.&nbsp; The dragon&rsquo;s initial attacks on the town were met by the raising of an army to kill the beast, but its fiery breath deterred the attack from even beginning.&nbsp; Instead, the townsfolk undertook an appeasement campaign to keep the dragon in the swamp by sending two sheep into the swamp every day.&nbsp;</p> <p>However, at 712 sheep every year, the citizens of Sylene were soon running out of sheep and they began offering a human being, instead!&nbsp; A lottery was established in the area to determine the victim.&nbsp; On the particular day that St. George was riding through the area, the lot had fallen to the king&rsquo;s daughter&mdash;a princess was doomed to be a human sacrifice.&nbsp; The princess went forth into the swamp, dressed as a bride when St. George stumbled upon the dragon stalking the victim.&nbsp; With his lance, he ran it through subduing the beast.&nbsp; Using the princess&rsquo; girdle as a harness for the dragon, he stood guard while the princess lead the terror back to the town&nbsp;</p> <p>When the people saw the beast coming toward the town, they panicked, prepared to flee when the story sees St. George gallop up to proclaim they should not fear.&nbsp; Preaching the peace gained through faith in Jesus Christ, through baptism.&nbsp; St. George offered to slay the dragon in return from their conversions.&nbsp; When they agreed, the dragon was killed.&nbsp; Subsequently, 15,000 citizens of Sylene were baptized (not counting the women and children).&nbsp; Too, the king offered treasure to St. George, who refused the honors and payments, asking for money to be distributed to the poor.&nbsp; Specifically, St. George asked that the king and city build churches, honor priests, regularly worship, and be generous to the poor.&nbsp;</p> <p>Following his dragon-slaying escapades, St. George took on another great enemy&mdash;Christian-persecuting emperors Diocletian and Maximian.&nbsp; Being taken prisoner and unwilling to renounce his faith, St. George was tortured through a series of horrific devices&mdash;he was strung up and beaten with clubs, branded with red-hot irons, given poisons, pressed between spiked wheels, and boiled in molten iron before finally being beheaded.&nbsp; The many agonies that St. George went through he was only able to survive by the Grace of God, who kept restoring him to health as the trials went on.&nbsp; Through these restorations and subsequent hardships, many people saw St. George&rsquo;s strength and witness to Christ and were, themselves, converted&mdash;including the wife of the governor.&nbsp; However, upon his beheading, St. George was martyred on April 23, 303.</p> <p>St. George&rsquo;s widespread association with England seems to stem from St. George&rsquo;s widespread repute and popularity in the Jerusalem region during the time of King Richard I&rsquo;s crusades.&nbsp; St. George&rsquo;s exploits exist in the multiple languages of the region&mdash;Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic&mdash;and due to the nature of the exploits, crusaders likely developed a patronage with the martyr knight St. George. &nbsp;Since 1222 the English have celebrated the feast day of St. George and in 1415 it became the chief feast of the year in England.&nbsp; When King Edward III founded the Order of the Garter, St. George was assigned as the patron.&nbsp; Further, during the 17<sup>th</sup> and 18<sup>th</sup> Centuries, St. George&rsquo;s feast day (April 23) was a day of obligation for English Catholics.&nbsp; The special devotion and affinity toward St. George lead Pope Benedict XIV to recognize him as the Protector of the English Kingdom.</p> <p><strong>Practical Take-Away:</strong> <em>St. George&rsquo;s <span style="text-decoration: underline;">Public</span> Religion</em>&nbsp;</p> <p>When the persecution of Christianity was occurring in St. George&rsquo;s life, his arrest resulted not from someone snitching on him, or because Roman authorities infiltrated a Mass and found him among the banished group.&nbsp; Instead, St. George&rsquo;s arrest resulted from a very voluntary and public declaration of his Faith.&nbsp; According to Butler&rsquo;s Lives of the Saints, as arrests were taking place many Christians became afraid and renounced their Faith publically.&nbsp; &ldquo;In order to set a good example [St. George] went boldly into a public place and cried out, &lsquo;All the gods of [the pagans] are devils.&nbsp; My God made the heavens and is very God&rdquo; (ii, 149). &nbsp;It was this declaration that lead to his arrest and martyrdom.</p> <p>We live in similarly dangerous time, when we can avoid persecution by denouncing our Faith or, at least, keeping it <em>private</em>&mdash;something we do in our own home.&nbsp; Our secular society thinks this sort of exclusively private religion suffices a s a compromise for balancing opposing secular-religious interests.&nbsp; However, being Catholic is not a sometimes thing, not a half-hearted thing, not an on-again/off-again thing&mdash;it is a lifestyle, an uncompromising way of life.&nbsp; When we denounce our Faith, we denounce our life, because Christ and His Church are the very source of our life&mdash;apart from Him we are nothing.&nbsp; As Catholics face greater and greater pressure from secular forces to &ldquo;change&rdquo; or &ldquo;compromise&rdquo; their values especially in the public realm, we must follow the stunning and bold example of St. George.&nbsp; We must be willing to endure the hardship for the opportunity to lead by example.&nbsp; We dare defend our Faith; yes, even in a public place! &nbsp; &nbsp;</p>