Thought for the Day – 25 July – Memorial of St Christopher (died C 251) Martyr
There is a beloved saint whose image can be found inside of cars, on the walls of churches and around the necks of safety-seeking travellers. His most prevalent image is that of a tall, formidable man who wades across an unruly river. Wooden staff firmly in hand, his face is often strained, looking upward to the sweet-faced child resting on his oversized shoulders.
He is referenced in literature: “A Cristofre on his breast of silver shene…,” Chaucer wrote in The Canterbury Tales and in film, such as 2005’s Crash in which a habitual car thief uses his trusty Saint Christopher medal as a good-luck charm.
Saint Christopher—patron of travellers, protector against toothaches, hailstorms and sudden death—is one of the most endearing for Catholics. His life and story, bordering somewhere between legend and legitimacy, is a complex, faith-affirming exercise in service, grace and love.
A picture of Saint Christopher was found in a monastery on Mount Sinai dating from the time of Justinian (527-565). His image was cast on coins in Württemberg and Bohemia and his statues could be found on bridges, imparting safety to their many travellers.
Christopher’s woodcarvings and paintings were hung on the walls of many European churches, often accompanied by the inscription, “Whoever shall behold the image of Saint Christopher shall not faint or fall on that day.”
Further proof of his early popularity, Saint Christopher was included as someone invoked against an assortment of hardships. He was also chosen as the patron of Baden, Brunswick and Mecklenburg and is one of the efficacious saints, The Fourteen Holy Helpers.
And that popularity never wavered. Even somewhat recently, organisations such as “The Christophers,” founded by Father John Keller, M.M. in 1945, are named after him. The Christophers’ purpose is to encourage all individuals to celebrate “their abilities and use them to raise the standards in all phases of human endeavour.” It’s a fitting principle.
Despite Saint Christopher’s long-lasting influence, aspects of his life are shrouded in myth and in legend. But his popularity, regardless of overwhelming uncertainty, is unmistakable. We love him and trust in his intercession!
Christopher has proven his resilience, growing in popularity over the centuries and withstanding suspicious historians who have questioned his validity.
For many, Saint Christopher reminds us that, in our own way, we carry Christ on our shoulders and in our hearts, across mighty rivers.
These mighty rivers of our lives!