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St. Christopher

St. Christopher by Br. Arturo Olivas, OFS

Artist Narrative:

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.

His feast day is July 25.

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Before the 1969 reform of the Roman calendar, Christopher was listed as a martyr who died under Decius. Nothing else is known about him. There are several legends about him including the one in which he was crossing a river when a child asked to be carried across. When Christopher put the child on his shoulders he found the child was unbelievably heavy. The child, according to the legend, was Christ carrying the weight of the whole world. This was what made Christopher patron saint of travelers and is invoked against storms, plagues, etc.. His former feast day is July 25.

Before the formal canonization process began in the fifteenth century, many saints were proclaimed by popular approval. This was a much faster process but unfortunately many of the saints so named were based on legends, pagan mythology, or even other religions -- for example, the story of the Buddha traveled west to Europe and he was "converted" into a Catholic saint! In 1969, the Church took a long look at all the saints on its calendar to see if there was historical evidence that that saint existed and lived a life of holiness. In taking that long look, the Church discovered that there was little proof that many "saints", including some very popular ones, ever lived. Christopher was one of the names that was determined to have a basis mostly in legend. Therefore Christopher (and others) were dropped from the universal calendar.

Saint Christopher (Greek: Ἅγιος Χριστόφορος, Ágios Christóforos) is venerated by several Christian denominations as a martyr killed in the reign of the 3rd-century Roman Emperor Decius (reigned 249—251) or alternatively under the Roman Emperor Maximinus II Dacian (reigned 308—313). There appears to be confusion due to the similarity in names "Decius" and "Dacian". However, his veneration only appears late in Christian tradition, and did not become widespread in the Western Church until the Late Middle Ages, although churches and monasteries were named after him by the 7th century.

That Christopher's name, meaning "Christ-bearer", foretells his adult life may give a clue that his story lacks a precise historical origin. He may be the same figure as Saint Menas. His most famous legend, which is mainly known from the West and may draw from Ancient Greek mythology, tells that he carried a child, who was unknown to him, across a river before the child revealed himself as Christ. Therefore. he is the patron saint of travelers, and small images of him are often worn around the neck, on a bracelet, carried in a pocket, or placed in vehicles by Christians.