September 12, 2020 3 min read
St. Christopher is seen as a martyr in Catholic tradition and died under the Roman Emperor Decius. His name was likely something other than Christopher according to documentation that references him as Reprobus, but he is known in the church as Christopher. There are not a lot of primary sources that tell us much about him, but there are plenty of stories that have been passed down over generations and have made their way to a place of prominence in the traditions and history of the Catholic Church.
Christopher was a very physically large man and was also revered as a spiritually great and large presence as well. He wanted to serve the greatest king that he could, and he went into service to do just that. However, that king demonstrated some reverence for the Devil when he shuddered at the mention of him, which told Christopher that the kind believed the Devil to have greater power. Christopher took this a cue to serve the Devil and he sought out to do that instead. He then came across a group of thieves and their leader referenced himself as the Devil. At one point, this leader of thieves shuddered in the presence of a Christian cross as though to demonstrate that Christ had greater power than he did. Christopher saw this as a sign that he should follow Christ instead.
St. Christopher found someone who would teach him everything that he needed to know about Christ and faith, but this person suggested that he spend his life fasting and praying. Since Christopher was such a larger man, the practice of fasting was particularly difficult and left him feeling hungrier than most average people. His spiritual mentor then suggested that he find some other way to serve the Lord and dedicate his life, so he found a river where he could work to help people cross. Since he was a large man, he was able to provide physical support in helping people get across the river without drowning along the way.
There is a significant story that came about during this time in which a child was being helped across by Christopher but he was abnormally heavy. It was with a lot of effort that Christopher got him to the other side, but he didn’t understand why the child was so heavy. He asked the boy and the boy supposedly told him that he was the Christ and that he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders, which is why he was so heavy. The story tells us that the child disappeared after telling Christopher of this burden, and it also explains the use of the name Christopher because it means “Christ-bearer” and he bore the child Christ during this encounter.
Because of Christopher’s dedication to assisting travelers across this significant river, he has been seen as the patron saint of travelers. You will often see missionaries pray to Saint Christopher in preparation for their journey into ministry, or people who are digital nomads in today’s day and age may carry an emblem or prayer that is dedicated to Christopher. Since he also has the story of bearing the child who said he was the Christ, St. Christopher is also revered as the patron saint of children. Many people who are dealing with raising kids and are calling upon God to give them guidance as they grow up and experience to joys and pains of the world will pray to Christopher as a source of strength. Although St. Christopher was a physical giant, he is more readily and prominently known as one of the great spiritual giants of the Catholic faith.
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