Saint Christopher

Author: Lives of Saints


Feast: July 25

From the great mass of legendary material, often confused and contradictory, which is associated with the name of St. Christopher, there emerges one clear conception. It is that of a man who is strong, simple, kind, and completely dedicated to one thing: serving the Lord by serving his fellow men. Christopher, according to the ancient and very popular tradition, lived in the province of Lydia, Asia Minor, during the reign of the Emperor Decius. He was a man of enormous size and strength, who had been converted to Christianity by a holy hermit. Having no gift for preaching, fasting, or prayer, the customary practices of the good Christian, he searched for some other way of showing his love of God. An inspiration came to him. He went to a certain stream whose current was so dangerous that travelers were often swept away while trying to ford it. Here Christopher built a hut for shelter, then stationed himself on the bank, and carried across all who came, a sort of human ferry. After he had been laboring in this way for some time, a little child appeared one day, and asked to be carried. Christopher lifted the child in his great arms, placed him on his shoulder, and started across, staff in hand. At every step the load grew more burdensome, and Christopher came near losing his balance in the rushing water. On reaching the other bank, he put the boy down, saying, "Child, thou hast put me in dire peril, and hast weighed so heavily on me that if I had borne the whole weight of the world upon my shoulders it could not have burdened me more heavily." The boy answered, "Wonder not, Christopher, for not only hast thou borne the whole world on thy shoulders, but Him who created the world"—for the Christ Child, bearing in His own arms the great world, had been Christopher's burden. To prove that this was true, He told Christopher to recross the river and plant his staff in the ground beside his hut and soon it would burst into bloom. Obeying, Christopher was amazed to see this occur, and then he knew how wonderfully he had been favored.

This miracle brought about the conversion of many in those parts, but it aroused the wrath of the pagan king, who had Christopher imprisoned, tortured, and beheaded. In the Golden Legend are to be found other stories of the saint which were current in medieval times. Christopher is loved and honored in the churches both of the East and the West. In addition to being the patron and protector of all travelers, he is also invoked against storms and sudden death. In art Christopher is usually shown with his emblems, the Christ Child, a tree in bloom, a torrent; the great artists Durer and Pollaiuolo are among those who have portrayed him in the act for which he is best known.

This was taken from "Lives of Saints", Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.