St. Patrick’s Day is now behind us, and I would like to consider the other patron saints of the British Isles: St. George (England), St. Andrew (Scotland), and St. David (Wales). 0f these, St. David as the patron saint of Wales, joins Patrick in being celebrated on a day set aside in March – March first.
Many identify St. George as the dragon slayer, as he is usually depicted astride a white horse, spearing a fiery dragon, while a fair maiden gazes on. Perhaps less is known about the historical George than is the case with other saints, leading to his being deprived of status as a major saint, except in England. The most favored candidate is a Greek officer of noble birth who served in the army of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, and who lived during the years 275-303 AD.
George’s father was from Cappadocia, Asia Minor (Turkey), and reputedly held in high esteem by the Emperor. His mother was a Greek noble woman who lived in Lyd, present day Israel. Both parents are said to be Christians, and George was considered to be a Greek Christian.
The story about slaying the dragon is explained that actually it was a crocodile who was terrorizing people who sought to obtain water from where the crocodile lived (a marsh, river, lake or spring of some sort). When the crocodile threatened a young woman fetching water, George was able to kill it, thus saving the “damsel” in distress. While more dramatic than Patrick’s driving all the snakes out of Ireland, George’s feat had less impact of a longstanding nature.
When George’s father died, the young man sought his father’s friend Diocletian, and offered to serve in his army. Diocletian accepted, but by and by trouble arose between Diocletian and the Christians. He ordered any Christians in his army be expelled, and, if they did not recant and swear loyalty only to him, they were to be executed. As the story goes, Diocletian met with George privately, and gave him every chance to recant and save his life. Sainthood and martyrdom awaited George as he refused to deny that he was Christian, and the inevitable happened.