Puff the magic dragon, Smaug from Lord of the Rings, Elliot in the movie Pete’s Dragon, and Norberta from the Harry Potter series are just a small sampling of these fantastical creatures we call dragons found throughout literature and movies. The dragon generally symbolizes adversity, evil, and chaos and has also found itself in Christian history. The story of St. George (feast day April 23), a martyr, includes a legend of his having imperishable courage in overcoming and slaying a dragon.
St. George was born into a Christian family in the late 200’s in Cappadocia, located in what is modern day Turkey. At that time in history, the Roman Empire was under the control of Emperor Diocletian who believed in and sacrificed to pagan gods. St. George was an officer in the Roman army.
Diocletian demanded that George make a sacrifice in honor of the pagan gods. George, ever firm in his belief in the one True God, refused and was executed by Diocletian. He was not afraid to proclaim his faith and died a martyr in 303 AD in Lydda, modern day Israel.
Years after his death, stories began to circulate that colorfully illustrated George’s defeat of a carnivorous dragon. There was a town that had a dragon like creature that built its nest at the spring that supplied the town with fresh water. The only way that the people could get their water was to lure the dragon away from its nest for a time. They did this by giving it a sheep to eat. This procedure worked well until the town had depleted its sheep supply. It was decided, then, that a young woman would be randomly chosen to be given to the dragon to eat so the townspeople could obtain their water. One day, the princess, the king’s daughter, was randomly selected to be the dragon’s next meal. It was at this time that St. George was riding through the town as a Roman officer and heard of the town’s dilemma. George courageously faced the dragon slaying it. The dragon was no more, and St. George became a hero.
Since we all have dragons in our lives, courage is a desirable virtue and so it is natural that we admire those who face bravely adversity and evil. Dragons take on the form of hopelessness, uncertainty, loneliness, persecution, and sin, among others. As Christians, though, we do not have to fight our dragons alone. We were gifted with the virtue of faith at our Baptism and have a loving, merciful God who is just waiting for us to ask for his help. Take courage, turn to God, ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit, face the dragon, and see the Light of the Risen Christ both through the battle and in the victory.
St. George, pray for us!