Today is the feast day of one of the greatest and mysterious saints to have lived: St. George. St. George was a soldier in the Roman army before being martyred in the fourth century. Unfortunately that is all that we can know for certain. Throughout history many songs, stories, poems, and hymns have been written about Saint George and this has led to some of the confusion between what is fact and what is fiction concerning his life. The most famous of the legends of St. George is the Golden Legend.
The Golden Legend is a story that would inspire anyone. The gist of the legend holds that local villages in Libya were being harassed by a dragon during the life of Saint George. This dragon ate villagers, destroyed armies, ate sheep, and eventually came to target a princess in one of the villages. St. George became aware of this, crossed himself, battled the dragon and defeated it with one blow. Following this spectacular miracle he gave a powerful sermon, converted thousands, received a large sum of money from the king for his victory, and gave it all to the poor. An incredible story, right? Unfortunately, its historical accuracy is lacking. However, the story is not without worth and value.
Many today understand this old legend in a metaphorical sense (sometimes we have a deeper understanding of scripture in this way). Many see the dragon as a representation of wickedness, Satan, and evil. And they also understand the princess as eternal truth and beauty. With this understanding of the story we see that this story is actually far more important than it was before. At first glance the story teaches the importance of courage, faith, and fortitude. However, with a deeper understanding we see that the story teaches us that as the dragon desired to take truth and beauty from the people, so too does wickedness and evil attempt to take truth and beauty from our lives. So too must we have the faith in God that he will give us courage to battle the devil and protect truth, beauty, and goodness. This story of St. George is more than a story of a great saint. It is a story about our lives and about what we face every day.
The questionable historical accuracy of the story does not take away from the marvel and might of St. George. More than likely he lived as a Roman soldier under Emperor Diocletian who viciously persecuted Christians during his reign. During this time he was a Christian and probably came up to the Emperor and chastised him for his actions. This would have resulted in Saint George leaving the army, then being tortured and eventually beheaded. Saint George was a saint of conviction, courage, and tremendous faith as seen through both his legends and life.
Saint George clearly inspires us and is the patron saint of England, Germany, soldiers, and Ethiopia (just to name a few). One of the best way to honor Saint George is through St. George medals. St. George medals remind you of the courageous and virtuous life on a daily basis. A St. George medal will also remind you to invoke the prayers of this great saint, so that you might have some of those same tremendous virtues he exemplified. Why do you love St. George? What is your favorite St. George legend?