Lynda Long asked:
I have always loved animals-primarily dogs. I have had four dogs in my life and each of
them brought a different strength to my life…not to even mention the unconditional love.
If humans were like dogs, the world would be a much better place.
With that in mind, I began wondering if dogs had guardian angels looking over them.
While I was always sure that they did, I wanted to know if there were any Saints, as
recognized by the Catholic Church that particularly aided dogs. Here is what I found:
St. Francis of Assisi-Patron Saint of Animals:
Born in northern Italy (at Assisi in Umbria) in 1181 and christened Giovanni (John) after
John the Baptist, this saint began life as the son of a wealthy cloth merchant, Pietro
Bernadone. Johns father was French and as such, he nicknamed him Francesco
(Francis), the little Frenchman. As a youth, Francis was extravagant, carefree and
loved by everyone. He was a natural leader and while growing up he became the leader
of a group of young people who spent their nights at wild parties and who were
accustomed to vice.
Francis wanted to be a knight. He got his chance when Assisi declared war on their long
time enemy, Perugia. Most of the troops from Assisi died in the fight; however, Francis
was taken prisoner (because of his wealth) and held for ransom. After a year in the
dungeon in Perugia, Francis ransom was paid and he was set free. Still wanting to be
a knight with all of the glory attached to that title, a call for the knights for the Fourth
Crusade gave him a chance for his dream. He suited up with a suit of armor decorated
with gold, and he boasted that he would return a Prince. But within one days ride from
Assisi, he had a dream in which God told him to return home, and despite the humiliation
from the townspeople, he did return home. But Francis did not change overnight. He did
begin to spend more time in prayer, went off to a cave and wept for his sins. But there
was still a business to run…he could not give himself totally over to God.
But on a pilgrimage to Rome, that all changed. He gave up his rich attire and donned a
beggars garb and began ministering to those suffering from the Black Death.
After the pilgrimage to Rome, at the age of 26, while praying at a chapel in San Damiano
that had fallen into ruin, he heard an image of Christ say to him Repair my fallen
House. Francis took this literally and began the necessary repairs on the little chapel.
However, Francis had no money of his own and so to pay for the restoration, he stole
bolts of cloths from his fathers warehouse. This angered his father so much that he
threw Francis out of the house and disinherited him. This was a turning point and a
freeing moment for Francis and he spent the rest of his life emphasizing poverty,
humility and discipline. Within 15 years, Francis was the leader of 5,000 Friars Minor
(a Monk Order) and a growing Order of Nuns, Poor Clares.
Francis is remembered not so much as a religious organizer but as a charismatic example
and a compassionate soul for the unusual. It is believed that he preached sermons to
birds and entered into a peace treaty with a wolf so that the wolf would no longer
terrorize a town. In 1224, he was granted the Stigmata (the mark of Christs five
wounds) on his own body. He died in 1226 at age 45 and is enshrined in the basilica of
Assisi bearing his name…although he would much have preferred a paupers grave. He is
considered to be the founder of all Franciscan orders.
St. Dwynwen (Dwyn) of Tolentino-Patron Saint of Sick Animals:
Dwyn was a 5th century Welsh maiden from a wealthy
family. Her father was a Welsh Saint and king, Brychan Brycheiniog of Brechon. She
had her love troubles, however. The story is that Dwyn fell madly in love with a Welsh
prince named Maelon Dafodrill. A marriage was planned but it was not to be. As St.
Dwyn distanced herself from Maelon, his bitterness toward her became unbearable.
Heartbroken, Dwyn accepted a heavenly potion offered to her by an Angel appearing to
her in a dream to soothe her heartache. However, the angel failed to tell her the effect of
the potion on Maelon, who was turned into stone (or ice according to other accounts)
once administered to him. Appalled, Dwyn requested and was granted three wishes from
That Maelon be restored to life
That all True Lovers that invoke her name either achieve their hearts desires or
recover quickly from disappointment
That she not marry or wish to
Dwyn committed her life to God and founded a convent on what is now Llanddwyn
island, just off the Isle of Angeles. Within that Abbess, there is a miraculous spring
(Ffynnon Dwynwen) wherein, from the movement of the fish, the adept can tell the
future. One other interesting fact, the water works wonders with sick animals. Over time
Dwyns name was invoked to heal sick and distressed animals, a tradition that has
survived even today.
The ruins of Llanddwyn chapel, a 16th century Tudor church, can still be seen.
Moreover, her name lives on in the town of Porthddwyn and a church dedicated to her
can be found in Cornwall.
St. Roch- Patron Saint of Dog Lovers:
St. Roch was a French Saint born in 1293. He enjoyed a wealthy and privileged youth as
the son of the governor of Montpellier. However, he was orphaned at 20 and decided to
give all his property to the poor and handed over the city government to his uncle. He
then began a pilgrimage to Rome disguised as a mendicant pilgrim where he nursed the
victims of the Plague/Black Death, where he was often successful in miraculous results
with these victims.
Roch became infected with the Plague himself at Piacenza and stopped his ministry as he
knew he would be contagious to others. He went into the forest to die alone but was
befriended by a dog (and later the master) who would bring him food snatched from his
masters (Gothard) table. Roch finally recovered, thanks to the nutrition and
companionship offered by the dog and his master and he decided to return to Montpellier.
Because of his illness, no one recognized him and he was thrown into a dungeon as he
was thought to be a spy. There Roch died at the age of 32 after 5 years in the prison in
1327. Once dead, he was finally recognized by a family member by an X-Shaped
birthmark on his breast and his family grieved over his horrible death. He was given a
public funeral and numerous miracles attested his sanctity.
In 1414, during the Council of Constance, the black plague was rampant, The Fathers of
the Council ordered public prayers and processions in honor of St. Roch and immediately
the plague ceased. St. Rochs relics were carried to Venice in 1485 where they are still
venerated. The letters VSR (Viva Saint Roch) were once inscribed over most
doorways in Europe as protection against pestilence.
St. Anthony the Great-Patron Saint of Domestic Animals:
Anthony was born in Memphis, Egypt in 251 to wealthy parents. When he was 20 years
old, his parents died and left him to care for his unmarried sister. After hearing the words
of Jesus instructing him to sell what you have and give to them poor as
would be treasures in heaven, he gave up his wealth to the poor and needy. He also
placed his sister in the care of a group of Christian Virgins, similar to a
nunnery. He left
Memphis for the desert living in a tomb and doing battle with the devil. The devil
afflicted him with boredom, laziness and phantoms of women which he overcame by the
power of prayer. He wore sackcloth and never washed his body or his feet and spent
his time in intense prayer. He attracted admirers from the local villages who would bring
him food and water. Once again the devil played havoc with Anthony and rendered him
unconscious after beating him mercilessly. When the local villagers found him in this
condition, they carried him to a church to provide a haven for recovery.
Once recovered, he returned to his hermit-like life, living in an old abandoned fort for
some 20 years. He communicated to the outside through a crevice in the fort in which
food and water could be passed. He did not allow anyone to enter his cell- those who
sought his counsel listened from the outside. The devil again began to torture Anthony,
only this time the phantoms were in the form of wild beasts, lions, snakes and scorpions.
But Anthony would laugh at them, invoke the name of God and the phantoms would turn
Eventually, he did emerge from the fort with the help of villagers tearing a wall down.
While all expected him to be wasted away or insane from his isolation, he emerged
healthy, serene and enlightened. He was hailed as a hero and his fame began to spread.
Anthony returned to his fort after confirming the followers in Fayyum in the Christian
faith. He wanted to be in isolation again, but people kept seeking his counsel, including
Emperor Constantine. Anthony did write Emperor Constantine a letter blessing him, and
praying for the peace and safety of the church and empire. Anthony realized that all of
the visitors were keeping him away from his worship, so he traveled into the inner
wilderness of the eastern Desert of Egypt. When he found a spring of water and palm
trees, he decided to settle there. On occasion, he would go to the outskirts of the desert
by the Nile to visit his brethren and then return to his inner sanctuary. At his
recommendation, all his followers took up mat-weaving and brush making so that idle
hands would not be the devils playmate. On this spot now stands the Monastery of
Anthony the Great.
When Anthony determined that his day of departure had come, he gave away his
belongings and stretched out on the ground and gave up his spirit. He instructed two of
his brethren to bury him secretly, and to this day, the grave-site is unknown. The year
was 356 and he was 105 years old. Many miracles are attributed to this religious father.
In Christian Iconography, Anthony is portrayed by the smallest bell in the carillon and
the smallest pig in a litter….referred to as Tantony.
His biography can be found in the book entitled Life of Saint Anthony the Great written
by St. Athanasius. Many stories are also told of him in various collections of sayings on
the Desert Fathers.
These four saints are those who protect dogs, healthy and afflicted. It is good to know
that these giving creatures are cared for in a heavenly way. I hope you enjoyed this
1) Saints Preserve Us! (Book)
Sean Kelly and Rosemary Rogers
2) St. Francis of Assisi (Article)
Terry Matz for Catholic Online (http://www.catholic.org)
3) St. Roch (Article)
Catholic Encyclopedia (http://www.newadvent.org)
No author cited
4) St. Dwynwen (Article)
No author cited
5) St. Anthony the Great
No author cited
Lynda M. Long (with References Identified)