Saint of the Day – 25 July – Saint Christopher (Died C 251) Martyr and “Christ-Bearer” – Born at Canaan as Offero and martyred in the reign of the 3rd-century Roman Emperor Decius (reigned 249–251) – Additional Memorials – 9 March (Greek calendar), 9 May (some Eastern calendars), 16 November (Cuba), 10 July (some areas of Spain). Also known as Christobal, Christoval, Cristobal, Kester, Kitt, Kitts, Offero. Patronages – against bad dreams, epileptics; against epilepsy, against floods, against hailstorms, against lightning, against pestilence, against storms, against sudden death, against toothache, Air Forces, archers, automobile drivers, motorists, bachelors, boatmen, bookbinders, bus drivers, cab drivers, taxi drivers, civil aeronautics, fruit dealers, fullers, gardener, of holy death, lorry drivers, truck drivers, truckers, mariners, sailors, market carriers, mountain climbers, porters, relief from pestilence, transportation, transportation workers, travellers, travellers in the mountains, Saint Christopher’s Island, Saint Kitts, 13 cities.
He was a man of many names, Offero being one of them. Born in the third century in Asia Minor, son of a king, he would grow to be a restless young man of considerable size. The early years of his life were spent in search of riches, of purpose, of a cause worthy of his allegiance.
As the story goes, a young Offero, looking for the strongest and boldest ruler to follow, briefly courted Satan. When his new master cowered in fear at a holy cross on the side of a road, Offero abandoned Satan, choosing light over darkness. During this period of transition, a holy hermit awakened the restless wanderer to Christianity, schooling and baptising him. From then on, Offero pledged his life to Christ and vowed to serve God’s people along the banks of an untamed river. So he built a hut and set up camp with a new purpose—to be a boatman to the world.
His popularity was solidified when a small child once approached him, wanting safe passage across the water. He hoisted the boy on his shoulders and, with his trusty staff, began the journey. As the river deepened, the child began to grow heavier. Waters quickly rising, the precious cargo continued to weigh the giant down. As he reached the banks of the river, Offero said, “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.”
“Christopher,” the little boy responded, “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.”
The child instructed Christopher (meaning “Christbearer”) to cross the river again and plant his staff in the ground, telling the ferryman that life would spring forth. To Christopher’s astonishment, by morning his staff had taken root—bright flowers and fruit grew from it.
The rest of Christopher’s life is even sketchier in detail. One legend states that many in the immediate area converted to Christianity based on his encounter, which drew unwanted attention. In Lycia—present-day Turkey—under Emperor Decius, he was imprisoned, shot with arrows, burned and then beheaded around 251.
Though the life of this mighty martyr was later questioned by historians, Saint Christopher’s story and his worldwide appeal have proven invulnerable. Amen and alleluia, glory be to God!