Skip to comments.St. Christopher the 'Christ Bearer' (is still a Saint!) [Catholic Caucus]
Posted on 07/25/2011 7:24:19 PM PDT by Salvation
St. Christopher is still a saint. Tradition holds that he died at Lycia on the southern coast of Asia Minor about the year 251. Various legends surround his life. The most popular is that he was a rather ugly, giant man, born to a heathen king who was married to a Christian, who had prayed to the Blessed Mother for a child. Originally named "Offerus," he carried people across the river for his livelihood. (Another source stated that he was named "Reprobus" prior to his baptism, and then changed his name.)
He converted from paganism through the teaching of a hermit, named "Babylas." Christopher believed that our Lord was the most powerful of all, more powerful than any man and one whom even Satan feared.
Again according to legend, one day one of his passengers to cross the river was a small child. As they proceeded, the child kept growing heavier; and Christopher feared that they would drown. The child then revealed Himself as Jesus, and the heaviness was due to the weight of the world that He carried on His shoulders.
According to the Roman Martyrology, he suffered martyrdom during the persecution of Emperor Decius by being shot with arrows after surviving burning.
The name Christopher means "Christ bearer." He is the patron saint of travelers, especially those driving cars. His popularity increased during the Middle Ages. However, evidence attests to widespread devotion even prior to this time: St. Remigius of Rheims was buried in 532 in a church dedicated to St. Christopher; Pope St. Gregory the Great (d. 604) mentioned in his letters a monastery dedicated to this saint; and the Mozarabic Breviary and Missal of St. Isidore of Seville (d. 636) has a special office dedicated to him.
St. Christopher is particularly venerated in Southern Germany, Austria and Northern Italy (which was part of the Austrian Empire until after World War I), because he is one, of the "Fourteen Holy Helpers," a group of saints invoked as early as the 12th century in these areas and who are honored on Aug. 8: St. Denis of Paris (headache and rabies), St. Erasmus or Elmo (colic and cramp), St. Blaise (throat ailments), St. Barbara (lightning, fire, explosion, and sudden and unprepared death), St. Margaret (possession and pregnancy), St. Catherine of Alexandria (philosophers and students, and wheelwrights), St. George (protector of soldiers), Sts. Achatius and Eustace (hunters), St. Pantaleon (tuberculosis), St. Giles (epilepsy, insanity and sterility), St. Cyriac (demonic possession), St. Vitus (epilepsy) and St. Christopher (travelers). The German Dominicans promoted this veneration, particularly at the Church of St. Blaise in Regensburg (c. 1320).
Moreover, medals of St. Christopher and car medallions or pins are still manufactured and used by the faithful. St. Christopher's feast day is still July 25, and the proper of the Mass in his honor is found in the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal still authorized for the Tridentine Mass.
The confusion over whether St. Christopher is still a saint arose when Pope Paul VI revised the Liturgical Calendar, which includes the feast days of saints that are commemorated at Mass. Due to the proliferation of the number of feast days over the centuries, the Second Vatican Council in its "Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy" proposed, "Lest the feasts of the saints should take precedence over the feasts which commemorate the very mysteries of salvation, many of them should be left to be celebrated by a particular Church, or nation, or family of religious. Only those should be extended to the universal Church which commemorate saints who are truly of universal importance" (No. 111). With this in mind, a special commission Consilium examined the calendar and removed those saints whose historical base was more grounded on tradition than provable fact, changed the feast days to coincide with the anniversary of a saint's death or martyrdom whenever possible, and added saints that were recently canonized and had universal Church appeal. Moreover, local conferences of bishops could add to the universal calendar those saints important to the faithful in their own country. In no way did the Church "de-canonize" St. Christopher or anyone else, despite the lack of historical evidence surrounding their lives. St. Christopher is still worthy of our devotion and prayers, and each of us should be mindful that he too is called to be a "bearer of Christ."
Fr. Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Potomac Falls and a professor of catechetics and theology at Christendom's Notre Dame Graduate School in Alexandria.
Please note: 100 articles of this column have been compiled in a book, Straight Answers, and another 100 articles in Straight Answers II. These books are available at local religious book stores
Saint of the Day ping!
My cousin Jo gave me a St. Christopher medal to carry with me when I left for Vietnam in 1967. Made it back without a scratch. And she’s a Baptist!
In the mid-seventies, I gave my parents a magnetic Saint Christopher medallion for our ‘73 bus. I don’t know where that one ended up, but I’m sure I still have my Saint Christopher medal.
I’d been thinking about St. Christopher on a little car trip just the other day.
For each of the kids in my Confirmation class, I’m making a variation on the Irish Penal Rosary, and where the large ring attaches to the body of the Rosary, I’m putting a jump ring and a St. Christopher medal. Then I’ll put on a lobster claw that will connect that end to the area just behind the crucifix, at the opposite end from the large ring so they can hang it around the rear view mirror. That way they’ll always have Jesus and St. Christopher on board!
My parish patron.
Thank-you for your service to the USA in the armed forces!
Hope the car medals are coming back.
While my dear, late mother was always a faithful Catholic, my late father left the Faith — for reasons unknown to all in my family. While he supported my mother’s decision to send all of us through 12 years of Catholic schooling never participated in any of our religious training at home.
However, he carried a St. Christopher medal in his car and one in his wallet. :) Also, much to our happy surprise, he asked for a priest and received the Last Rites before he died. (Yeah, I know we’re not supposed to call them “Last Rites” anymore....)
They are still wisely available. Any Catholic supply/goods store will stock them in several varieties.
Whoops: wisely = widely. Sorry about that...
I’m an Evangelical and I still have several Saint medals including a St. Christopher that I bought to replace one I had when I was in Catholic School as a child.
Sorry, didn’t see this was caucus. Salvation, may I post?
I believe there used to be a society called The Christophers. Their simple goal was to bear Christ to everyone they met.
There is a lot of confusion about the changes to the liturgical calendar of saints and St. Christopher was one of the biggest. I think it caused the faithful to question the Church because leadership went too far in making tweaks that overwhelmed the parishioners. Church leaders have got to do better about controlling their message to the faithful.
Hope you are feeling better, Salvation! God bless you for all you do for Catholics here at FR.
When I was young, if a guy gave a girl a St. Christopher medal, it meant they were going steady. I don’t know how widespread that was.
Was he also baptized then and received the Eucharist and Confirmation on his deathbed?
Our priest has even validated/performed a wedding for someone who was dying.
My Da had been raised Catholic and had received all of his sacraments in his childhood.