Saint George, Feast Day: April 23, Patron: Boy Scouts, Symbol: Dragon
by Catherine Fournier
Saint George is known as the 'dragon slayer' and his pictures show him as a brave knight in battle with a fierce dragon. Sometimes, there is a beautiful lady in the picture, too. Saint George is fighting the dragon to protect the lady.
Dragons represent wickedness and evil and are said to be fierce, cruel, and greedy for treasure and power. Legends say that dragons have fiery breath, long sharp claws and wings to swoop down on unsuspecting people. they destroy the countryside and scare away all the people. Doesn't that sound wicked and evil to you?
The beautiful lady shown in the pictures represents God's truth and our Holy Mother Church. Saint George is fighting evil to protect the Church!
Saint George was a soldier in the Roman army. He was one of the Roman emperor Diocletian's favorite soldiers. Maybe that's why, when Diocletian had notices put up proclaiming that Christianity was against the law, George thought that he could change the emperor's mind. He tore down the notices and went to Diocletian. Saint George declared that the new law was cruel and against God. Then he quit the army. For this, George was arrested, tortured and finally executed.
When people heard of the death of this brave soldier, instead of being frightened and abandoning their faith in Jesus, they took courage from George's example. Songs and poems were written about the bravery of this soldier. He was adopted as the patron saint of England by the first Norman kings, in about 1000.
Everyone has some 'dragon' of sin or weakness to fight against for Jesus' sake. Everyone is called to be a 'soldier for Christ' by the sacrament of confirmation. Saint George, the brave soldier, will help us whenever we ask him.
It would be easy to suppose that Saint George isn't a real saint because of the way he is usually depicted - dressed as an English knight of the Middle Ages, and battling a dragon. Often, Saint George is shown brandishing a sword with the dragon's body wrapped around him like a giant constrictor. A castle in the background complete with fair maiden wringing her hands on a parapet finishes off the picture.
But this is all symbolic. Saint George was a real man, a soldier in the Roman army in the early fourth century, at the beginning of the Diocletian persecutions of Christians. Some accounts say that he was one of the emperor Diocletian's favorites. Other stories say that when Diocletian caused a proclamation against Christians to be printed and posted in Nicomedia, it was George who tore it down and denounced the new law.
It is certainly known the George was arrested, tried, tortured and finally executed as a Christian. It is known that he resisted the demands of the torturers, that he deny his faith and worship the Roman gods. Many legends sprang up around the true story of George, claiming that he returned to life three times, and that wonderful cures and other miracles surrounded him.
Devotion to this saint extends back to the fifth century, and if it can be proved that one of the oldest churches in Constantinople dedicated to his name was actually built by Constantine the Great, then even earlier than that.
We are all called to be soldiers for Christ. Legend or not, dragons or other forms of evil, fair maidens or the purity and truth of the Church, Saint George shows us the way to defend our faith. All soldiers need to know strategy and fighting skills, Saint George among them. His faith and knowledge will be at our aid if we ask for it, and he will intercede for us to God for help in all our battles.
Very little is known about the life and martyrdom of any of the Early Christian martyrs and Saint George is no exception. It is certain that the martyr lived during the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian. He is reputed to have come from Cappadocia, and reached the rank of Tribune in the Roman army.
Diocletian issued a royal order that all Christians who denied Christ would be given royal honours, while those who persisted in their faith would be punished with death. The soldier George not only remained firm in his faithfulness to Christ, but denounced the emperor's orders as cruel and unjust.
Many legends and apocryphal stories have sprung up around the life of this saint. Some involve saving cities from the ravages of evil dragons, dead men brought to life in order to be baptised, beams of timber suddenly bursting into leaf, the sudden conversion and subsequent beheading of the 'empress Alexandria' and the saint himself three times being restored to life by a divine angel.
It is interesting how these legends develop. Even more interesting is how, in order to bolster the reputation of their heresy, some will appropriate the story of a saint, and use it to give themselves credibility. More can be read about this from the Catholic Encyclopedia
As to how he became the patron saint of England, Saint George was known and revered in England in the eighth century. A church in Doncaster, England dedicated to was built in 1061. His popularity grew under the influence of the Crusades. He is said to have been seen fighting along with the Franks at the battle of Antioch. It is probable that the arms of Saint George, were introduced at about the time of Richard Coeur de Lion. By the fourteenth century, they were a type of uniform for English soldiers and sailors. The large red Saint George's cross on a white ground is one of the elements in the Union Jack today.
Regardless of how much of his story is true, this much is. As a soldier, Saint George understood better than many of the early Christian martyrs just what would happen to him when he proclaimed his faith. He approached this as he must have approached many battles, brave, scared but determined to acquit himself with honour. We can learn from his example when we face trials, battles and challenges in our lives today.
Prayer: Lord, we acclaim Your might and humbly pray. Just as Saint George imitated the Lord's Passion, so let him now come to the aid of our weakness.
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