Last week, being asked about George, I mentioned that whilst he took up the job of England's Patron Saint in 1348, he's not English (or even British) but came from Cappadocia (which is in Turkey these days)! 'You're having me on!' came the response, 'Cappuccino?' So here's what I told them (and they still didn't really believe me until they'd read some of the same in the notes in the commemorative menu!
A high ranking Roman soldier on a par with being a Major General and heading to the Senate for sure, George became a Christian (often a good career stopper now and it was then ;-) ) and so found himself at odds with Diocletian, a bit of a nasty anti-Christian sort; but being a proven fighter, George took on Diocletian (and with him the Empire too) and this was the dragon he fought until on this day in 303 AD (at the age of thirty-three - bit like someone else I know) he was put to death. Not a cross like the other thirty-three year old but beheading brought George's end.
On the way though, and because of the way he lived subsequent to coming to faith and in the way that he died, Diocletian's missus also came to faith and so Diocletian had her killed too (no sense of humour some folk).
George's battle with Rome was depicted as him fighting a dragon and the tales grew out of this allegorical imagery (cf. Revelation where empires and power are depicted in similar vein) and came to our shores thanks to these stories which so inspired the Crusading forces. So much so that they took up his sign and fought in his and England's name (and let's not forget Harry either) and so we have a Saint!
Not a local lad but an inspiration:
A man's man - no namby pamby soft touch - having served and acquitted himself well.
A determined and resolute man - took on Diocletian and won even though he lost his head!
An example to us all (for this is what Saints are - examples as to attitude, belief, lifestyle and sometimes, death too!!
As that well known scribbler of soaps and other TV shows, Bill Shakespeare puts it in his soap: King Henry V:
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon;
let the brow o'erwhelm it as fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base, swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit to his full height.
On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war.
And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start.
The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'