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Saint of the Month—George: Saint and Superhero

Saint of the Month—George: Saint and Superhero

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Have you ever seen a movie that was “based on a true story”? Talking about Saint George is a bit like that. The facts are that George lived in the second century of Christianity and that he was a soldier and became a martyr when he died for his faith in 303. But his real-life bravery and courage inspired a wonderful story about Saint George slaying a terrifying dragon. He was a faithful Christian martyr who is depicted in legend and art as a Christian superhero.

Saint George was born about 275‒281 and grew up in a noble Christian family in Lydda, Palestine. His father was a respected official in the Roman army. As soon as George was old enough, he also decided upon a military career. Based partially on his father’s reputation, George was accepted into the Roman army and, before long, was promoted to the rank of tribune and stationed as an imperial guard of the emperor at Nicomedia.

In 302, the emperor Diocletian ordered every soldier in his army to offer a sacrifice to the pagan gods. George requested an audience with the emperor, boldly objected to the edict, and declared that he was a Christian and worshiped only Jesus Christ. Not wanting to lose his best tribune and the son of an esteemed official, Diocletian offered George gifts of land, money, and slaves if he would make a sacrifice, but George did not waver. He gave his money to the poor and prepared for death. Tradition tells us that George was beheaded on April 23, 303.

His story inspired many Christians, and devotion to Saint George was widespread. The flag of Saint George, a red cross on a white background, was displayed on ships sailing from London for the Mediterranean and was worn by crusaders marching into battle. Saint George was one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers to whom medieval Christians prayed, especially during the plague known as the Black Death.

The account of Saint George, dragon-slayer, was popularized in The Golden Legend, a book about the lives of saints that was written in the 13th century. According to the story of Saint George told in this book, a dragon living in a lake near Silena, Libya, terrorized the entire countryside. No army had been able to defeat it. The flocks of sheep had been depleted to appease the appetite of the dragon. In desperation, the people were preparing to sacrifice the princess to the dragon. Saint George, hearing of the princess’ peril, made the Sign of the Cross and went to battle against the monster, killing it with one blow of his lance. Then Saint George preached to the people he had saved and won their hearts for Christ. He gave the reward he received from the king to the poor. This story is a powerful symbol of the victory of goodness over evil.

Saint George was canonized in 494 by Pope Gelasius, who concluded that George was among those saints “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose actions are known only to God.” His example of protecting the innocent, fighting evil, standing up for his faith, displaying courage in battle and concern for the poor all combined to make him a popular saint. He is venerated by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Catholic Churches, the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Church. Saint George has been the patron of England since the year 800 and is honored as the patron saint of armies, soldiers, Boy Scouts, and the countries of England, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, and Russia, as well as many cities and provinces.

  • Seeds children will love to act out the story of Saint George and the dragon. Tell the story to the children, emphasizing that when God is on our side, we can do great things. Costumes and props can be minimal and still be lots of fun. Provide lengths of cloth or old tablecloths, shawls, belts or cords, a flashlight for the fiery dragon, a broom for George’s horse, and empty paper towel tubes for swords. Children can play the parts of Saint George, the dragon, the townspeople, the princess about to be sacrificed, and her parents, the king and queen.
  • Tell Promise children that Saint George and many other saints are holy helpers who are also referred to as patron saints. Saint George was a soldier and is the patron saint of soldiers. Saint Joseph was a carpenter, and so he is the patron saint of carpenters.Give each child drawing paper and crayons. Assign each child one of the following saints or other saints of your choosing, perhaps including the patron of your parish or school. Ask the children to draw pictures, not of the saints, but of the people the saint helps and protects. For example, a child could draw a picture of a soldier, carpenter, priest, baker, grandmother, and so on. When all have finished, gather the children into a prayer circle with each holding his or her picture. Lead the children in a litany of saints. Ask the children to hold their drawings high as each of the holy helpers are named.

Leader:  Children, let us call upon the holy helpers.

Saint George, holy helper of soldiers…

Children: Help all soldiers.

Leader:  Saint Joseph, holy helper of carpenters…

Children: Help all carpenters.

Leader:  Saint Nicholas, holy helper of children…

Children: Help all children.

Leader: Saint Anne, holy helper of grandmothers…

Children: Help all grandmothers.

Leader:  Saint John Vianney, holy helper of priests…

Children: Help all priests.

Leader:  Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, holy helper of bakers…

Children: Help all bakers.

Leader:  Saint Monica, holy helper of mothers…

Children: Help all mothers.

Leader:  Saint Luke, holy helper of artists.

Children: Help all artists.

Leader: Saint Cecilia, holy helper of musicians…

Children: Help all musicians.

Leader:  Saint Peter, holy helper of fishermen…

Children: Help all fishermen.

Leader:  Saint Isidore, holy helper of farmers…

Children: Help all farmers.

Leader:  Saint Therese, holy helper of pilots…

Children: Help all pilots.

Leader:  Saint Sebastian, holy helper of athletes…

Children: Help all athletes.

Leader:  Saint Michael the Archangel, holy helper of police officers…

Children: Help all police officers.

Leader:  Saint Albert, holy helper of scientists…

Children: Help all scientists.

  • After sharing the story of Saint George slaying the dragon, engage Good News children in a brief discussion about the “dragons” in their lives. It will be easy for them to see a playground bully in that role. Ask them how they could conquer such a dragon: with kindness, by bravely standing up to him or her, or by having the courage to tell a parent or teacher. Help them see that anxiety about a spelling test, fear of giving an oral report, a fight with a friend, and temptation to do something they know is wrong are also things that challenge them and that they need to conquer.

    After the discussion, ask the children to think of the “dragon” they want to defeat. Tell them that they are going to prepare a sword with which to slay their dragon. Give them cardboard and a sword pattern or pre-cut cardboard swords. Ask the children to print their names on the handle of their swords and to write on the blades of their swords the dragons they will slay. Then let them cover the blades of the swords with aluminum foil. Ask them to consider whether they can slay their dragons themselves or whether they need help in knowing what to do. Encourage the children to consult you or another trustworthy adult if they need help and to pray to Saint George for help when they are challenged by their personal dragons.

  • Share Saint George and the Dragon (New York, NY: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 1990, retold by Margaret Hodges, and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman), with Venture students. Then ask the students to prepare storyboards for a book about themselves slaying a dragon in from four to six scenes. The name of their dragon could be a vice or temptation that threatens them such as lying, cheating, vulgar language, being mean to classmates, and so on. But only they need to know the true identity of their dragon. Title the stories “(the student’s name), the Dragon-Slayer.” Give the students the opportunity to share their storyboards and to enjoy one another’s stories.
  • Have your group of Visions students form two news teams. Give one team the assignment of covering the story of Saint George slaying the dragon. Assign the second team to report on Saint George’s martyrdom. Give each team some resources to use, including the internet if access is available. Members of each team can be investigators, writers, news anchors, reporters, and eyewitnesses. Give each team a time limit to prepare their report and then have each team present their report to the other team.

 

Image credit: Bill Perry/Shutterstock.com

 

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