Summary of facts about St Christopher, one of the most popular Saints in the Catholic Church, mainly because of his well known status as the Patron Saint of Travelers
Story of Saint Christopher- how Monster became Saint
Most we know about him is a legend, however their are some historical sources going back as far as fifth century confirming his existence. One thing we know for sure is that he was listed as a martyr. St Christopher lived and died during the rein of Roman Emperor Decius. The year of his death is 251 AD. He is associated with many names, Offerus and Reprobus are some of them but most Catholics know him as Saint Christopher.
Some say he was born as a son of a King. From an early age he had great desire to serve the greatest King, so as a young boy he chose to serve his local ruler. After some time he noticed that the King was afraid of devil, crossing himself at every occasion his name was mentioned. St Christopher knew that their was someone else with more power that the King. He made the decision to serve the devil instead. He came across a band of thieves, whose leader was known as Devil. Shortly after that he discovered that devil was scared of the Cross, which meant that whoever was represented by it was even more powerful than him.
Not long after that he came across some Christians. At first sight he didn’t really know what to think about them. They didn’t have worldly powers and that was only power he knew. So peaceful and humble, even when persecuted. Christopher did not know the connection between those strange acting people and the Cross that put so much fear into devil. Hearing the Gospel from Christians made him want to join them, but it wasn’t that straightforward. Accepting a “monster” into community was not allowable for some.
Christopher’s search continued until he came across hermit who took him under his protective arm and taught him everything he knew about the greatest and most powerful King of All Kings, Jesus Christ. He recommended live in prayer and fasting to Christopher, but that way of living did not appeal to our future saint. Clever hermit came with another idea. Nearby their was a river with a crossing so dangerous that many people lost their lives there. He explained to Christopher that helping others may please Christ. From that day he was carrying people through the river, hoping this would satisfy Our Lord, who he heard so much about.
One day a child approached Christopher and asked if he could help him to get across the river. Water was particularly dangerous on that day, but that did not discourage our giant. He agreed and started the journey with little boy on his shoulder. At the beginning everything was as usual, but as he approached midstream, the river got dipper and the child seamed to weight more and more, becoming extremely heavy. It took a great amount of strength and courage for Christopher to finish this crossing safely. He couldn’t comprehend how such a small child could weight so much, so he asked for some explanation. The child told him that the weight he felt on his shoulders was the weight of the whole world, as He wasn’t an ordinary child but Jesus Christ Himself.
According to some historians this is how the conversation could have looked like
Christopher: ” Child, thou hast put me in great peril; thou weighest almost as if I had all the world upon me; I might bear no greater burden”
Child: ” Thou hast not only borne all the world upon thee, but thou hast borne Him that created and made all the world, upon thy shoulders”
Jesus Christ instructed Christopher to cross the river again and plant his trusty staff in the ground. Amazingly, when Christopher came back to that place next morning he found his staff full of flowers and fruits. It was a sign for him that the child was truly Christ. After this encounter Christopher was baptized. He was not a Reprobus anymore, from now on he would be called Christopher, the “Christ-bearer”
It is believed that he spent his life traveling and converting people to Christianity through the evangelizing. Legends say that he managed to bring to God thousands of people. During his travels St Christopher witnessed the persecution of the Christians in Lycia (present day Turkey), some of them even martyred.
Christopher himself was also persecuted, he was imprisoned and commanded to offer sacrifice to the Emperor. As he wasn’t willing to do so, they made every attempt to persuade him with money and even women. Two of them were sent to allure him, but he managed to convert them to Christianity instead. Many attempts were made to kill him but they all failed. In the end he was arrested and beheaded.
How did Saint Christopher look?
Firstly we have to mention his height, because St Christopher was extremely tall, some even say he was a giant measuring around 7.5 feet (228 cm) . In the Ortodox Church he is remembered as a monster, represented on the icons by the man with the head of a dog. This image came about from mistranslating the world Canaan (Saint Christopher originates from there) to “canine”, meaning “dog”. Some historians say that he looked so rough before his baptism that people were frightened of him, but after his face changed to more subtle and human appearance.
Patron Saint of Travelers and …
Travelers are not the only ones who can proudly say that St Christopher is their patron saint.
Among them are children, motorists, transportation workers, surfers, gardeners, athletes, mariners, even bachelors. He is also known as a mighty protector against toothaches, hailstorms, sudden death and plaque. In addition, St Christopher is believed to protect from floods, epilepsy and lightning. We have to remember about his patronage over America and Vilnius ( capital city of Lithuania).
Many soldiers put trust upon our Saint by wearing his medal or carrying a prayer card with them.
Last but not least all men wearing this lovely name. At the end of the day they are a “Christ-bearers” with the mighty patron saint.
Feast Day of Saint Christopher- When is it?
It falls on the July 25 (eastern feast day on May 9), in spite of the fact he was never officially recognized by the Church and his beatification or canonization date does not exist. He was removed from the Roman Catholic Church in 1969 (under Pope Paul VI), like several other holy names, because their legitimacy couldn’t be confirmed. What that means for Catholics that his feast day is no longer obligatory, but as you can imagine this caused a lot of confusion among faithful all over the world when it happened. They wrongly thought that St Christopher wasn’t a Saint anymore, which was obviously untrue.
Saint Christopher medal is among the most common devotion in Catholic society. The Roman Church honors the use of medals as a form of religious belongingness and protection against all evils.
It is believed that Saint Christopher medal protects its wearer from death during the travels and brings blessing. Many people wear this medal on the necks and wrists for this very reason. It is not unusual to hang this medal in the car.
The medal itself features the image of a tall and formidable man crossing dangerous river. He holds a long staff in his hands, while child-Jesus seats on his shoulder. To fully understand why this image was chosen to be engraved on St Christopher’s medal you need to get familiar with his life story.
The most common inscription on the medal in English says: ” Saint Christopher Protect Us” or ” Saint Christopher Pray for Us” while In French ” Regarde St Christophe et va-t-en rassure”, which translates to “Look at St Christopher and go on reassured”. Spanish equivalent translates into ” If you trust St Christopher, you won’t die in an accident”.
Miracles happen to those with Strong Faith…
We need to remember that medals (and all other Sacramentals) are not some magical charms and they don’t perform just through the act of wearing or possessing them. They work because we believe that Saint engraved on the piece of metal is with God and intercedes for us when we pray with faith. Only through mercy of God we can get what we ask for. Saints are our heavenly advocates in the front of God’s throne.
Catholic Church encourages us to use Sacramentals (including Medals), because they bear the promise of God’s help for our soul and body through the authority of the Church.
Was St Christopher real?
The oldest proof for St Christopher existence is inscription found in Nicomedia, Haidar-Pasha dated to year 452. It says that there is Basilica in Bithynia built in honor of our Saint.
There is another evidence establishing a fact of his being. In year 536 a Synod took place in Constantinople, where cult of St Christopher was confirmed.
In VII century Pope Gregory I (commonly known as Saint Gregory the Great) wrote in his notes about Monastery in Sicilian town Taormina, which was dedicated to St Christopher.
Monastery on Mt Sinai dating from the time of Justinian (year 527-565) was a place where a picture of St Christopher was found.
Surly no one would name a Church or Monastery after someone who never existed and was just a legend. For someone who wants to validate his being that adds lots of credibility to whole story.
On the other hand their are some speculations that St Christopher and St Menas (an Egiptian Saint) could have been confused with each other, as both of them are known as “Christ bearers” and are patrons of travelers.
There were always people questioning his existence. One of them was Desidelius Erasmus, 16th century Dutch writer and humanist who believed that “cult of St Christopher was retelling of the Hercules legend because of his great size”.
Who are 14 Holy Helpers (and what’s the connection with St Christopher) ?
They are also known under the name of 14 Auxiliary Saints and St Christopher was venerated as one of them. This extraordinary group of well-known saints was assembled by the Catholic Church when faced with Black Plaque, which was destructing Europe from 1346 to 1349. It was a very serious illness, able to kill within few hours, with symptoms including black tongue, extremely dry throat, fever, strong headache and boils on the abdomen.
Each of the Holy Helpers has their own feast day, but as a group they were remembered on 8 August (1969 reform of the Catholic Church calendar removed this date permanently).
14 Saints included are:
- St Christopher
- St Denis of Paris invoked against headaches, rabies and demonic possession
- St Blaise for a throat problems
- St Erasmus of Elmo against colic and cramps
- St Margaret of Antioch for pregnant women, headache and diabolic possession
- St Catherine of Alexandria against sudden death and diseases of the tongue
- St Eustachius for hunters and protection from fire
- St Barbara against sudden and unprovided death, fire and fever
- St George for soldiers and protection from herpes disease
- St Pantaleon patron of physicians and midwives, protects from tuberculosis and cancer
- St Cyriac against diabolic possession and diseases of the eye
- St Giles helps with epilepsy, mental illness and nightmares
- St Vitus against chorea, epilepsy and bites of animals
- St Acathius of Byzantium invoked against headaches
Let’s Pray to St Christopher…
Motorist’s Prayer: “Grant me, O Lord, a steady hand and watchful eye, that no one shall be hurt as I pass by. Thou gavest life, I pray no act of mine may take away or mar that gift of Thine. Shelter those, dear Lord, who bear my company from the evils of fire and all calamity. Teach me to use my car for others need; nor miss through love of undue speed. The beauty of the world; that thus I may with joy and courtesy go on my way. St. Christopher, holy patron of travelers, protect me, and lead me safely to my destiny. Amen”
Protection Prayer: “Dear Saint Christopher, protect me today in all my travels along the road’s way. Give your warning sign if danger is near so that I may stop while the path is clear. Be at my window and direct me through when the vision blurs from out of the blue. Carry me safely to my destined place, like you carried Christ in your close embrace. Amen”
St. Christopher’s Prayer: “O Glorious St. Christopher, you have inherited a beautiful name, Christ-bearer, as a result of the wonderful legend that while carrying people across a raging stream you also carried the Child Jesus. Teach us to be true Christ-bearers to those who do not know Him. Protect all of us that travel both near and far and petition Jesus to be with us always. Amen”
Rough Waters of Life
We can’t say for sure if he really was a giant but spiritual one he was for sure. Unaffected by doubtful historians and recent removal from Roman calendar, he grew in popularity over the centuries. Great role model and inspiration for all of us, but especially for those who go through the rough waters of life at the moment and need someone who will lift them and carry to the safe shore.