The Legend of St. Christopher

Why we travel with St. Christopher.... 

St. Christopher, as you may know, is a figure that appears in the scriptures of the Christian faith. Considered a saint but not officially listed in the canon of the saints, he is one of the most popular, yet ambiguous figures present in biblical tales.  Most Catholics refer to him as St. Christopher anyway, and his medals and devotions are among the most common in the Catholic faith. 

St. Christopher is also listed as a martyr (possibly named Reprobus) who died under the Roman Emperor Decius in 251 AD but beyond this there are no primary sources referring to St. Christopher - only legends. 

According to these legends, St. Christopher was extremely tall. By some accounts he was even a giant! This is unlikely, but he was most likely a man of significant physical stature. He is often referred to as a Canaanite (def: a member of a Semitic people that inhabited parts of ancient Palestine and were conquered by the Israelites and then largely absorbed by them).

Based on the legends, one day St. Christopher decided that he wanted to serve the greatest king he could. He presented himself before his local ruler and entered service. He served him loyally until he noticed the king cross himself at the mention of the devil, revealing that the king believed the devil to have more power. 

St. Christopher then decided to serve the devil. During his search, he encountered a band of thieves, whose leader referred to himself as the devil; but, when this leader avoided a christian cross out of fear, St. Christopher learned there was someone even more powerful than the devil. 

He thus embarked further in search of the greatest king of all.  Along the way he came across a hermit who taught him all about Christ, the King of Kings. The hermit suggested that he spend his life in prayer and fasting. This, however, was a thing which St. Christopher, a large and probably often hungry man found difficult. Thus, he objected. The hermit then suggested he find something else that would please Christ. After giving this some thought St. Christopher offered to work at a nearby river to help travelers get across. The fording was dangerous and many people with less strength could drowned. The hermit agreed that this service would please Christ.  

One day a child approached St. Christopher by the river and asked to be helped across. St. Christopher obliged. As he entered the midstream, however, the river rose and the child's weight oddly grew and became extremely heavy. It was only by great exertion that St. Christopher safely delivered the child to the other side. 

When St. Christopher asked the child why he was so heavy, the child explained that he was the Christ and when St. Christopher carried Him, he also carried the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. The child then vanished.

Today medallions with St. Christopher's name and image are commonly worn as pendants by travelers to show devotion and request his blessing. Miniature statues are also frequently displayed in automobiles. There is a phrase in French, "Regarde St Christophe et va-t-en rassure" ("Look at St. Christopher and go on reassured," also translated sometimes as "Behold St. Christopher and go your way in safety.")