St. Christopher, Martyr
The Roman Martyrology, today, honors also St. Christopher, who received the crown of martyrdom about the middle of the third century. He was born and educated in idolatry, but no sooner had he embraced Christianity, than he zealously strove to convert others to the true faith, and labored especially for this end in the district of Lycia. When, on this account, he was arraigned before the heathen judges, he fearlessly confessed Christ. Making him prisoner, they sent two wicked heathen women to him, who by tempting him to evil deeds, should open the way for him to forsake Christianity. But the Saint not only induced them by his exhortations to change their conduct, but also converted them to the Christian faith; which so enraged the judge, that he ordered the Saint to be tormented most cruelly.
Perceiving, however, that the Saint remained constant under all kinds of martyrdom, and by his example converted a great many heathens, the tyrant at length ordered him to be beheaded. This Saint is generally represented as of a gigantic stature, with a budding staff in his hand, carrying Christ, in the form of a lovely child, across a river. The cause of this is, that St. Christopher possessed a very tall figure, and one day, while expounding the truth of the Gospel to the heathens, he fixed a withered stick into the ground, which, to testify to the truth of his teachings, immediately began to bud. It is also told of him that his desire to assist his neighbor induced him to make his dwelling for some time by a river, and to carry travelers across to the opposite shore, as there was no bridge. While employed in these deeds of kindness, Christ Himself appeared one day to him, in the form of a lovely child, desiring to be carried over the river. The Saint took Him upon his shoulder, and carried him to the opposite shore, where the Saviour, making Himself known, filled the heart of His faithful servant with inexpressible joy.
There have been in the last few centuries, some who, wickedly desiring to tarnish the glory of the Saints, dared to assert that St. Christopher never existed. Several learned men, however, have, by their powerful arguments, silenced this erroneous statement. It is an established fact, that this holy Martyr was already honored by the whole Christian world, more than a thousand years before Luther. There are several convents and churches which were founded in his honor. It must here also be remarked that the Catholic Church by no means approves of the superstition practiced by some weak-minded persons; as, for instance, to say the so-called Prayer of St. Christopher, in order to find hidden treasures or to receive money from the Saint. It is known that, in our time, some who practised this superstition were punished by a just judgment of the Almighty in a terrible manner, by a sudden death.
The heathen tyrant endeavored to incite St. Christopher to the vice of unchastity, through two wicked women, because he thought that this would be the best way to lead him from Christianity. The same means were tried by other tyrants, with others of the faithful. Christopher, however, who desired to remain true to his faith, was not to be seduced. Heed it well. Unchastity is the way which leads to the loss of the true faith, hence to hell. Those who become addicted to this terrible vice, begin slowly to doubt several points of faith, until they have persuaded themselves that the sin they commit is not so great as is preached from the pulpit, but only a human weakness which God could not and would not punish with hell. Whoever reasons in this manner, has ceased to be a Catholic, as he does not believe everything God teaches us by His holy Church. The true faith of the heart is already lost, although apparently he may still belong to the Church of Christ. Without faith, heaven is lost, but hell remains. “He that believes not shall be condemned,” says Christ. (John, hi.; Mark, xvi.) Ponder well these words, and if you are free from this vice, give thanks to the Almighty, and, following the example of Christopher, let nothing seduce you. But if you are a slave to it, tear yourself away from it, if you will truly deserve the name of Catholic, and escape everlasting fire. ” No man is more ready to despise God, more audacious in criminal deeds, more hardened in sin, more inflexible to repentance, and nearer to hell, than he who lives an unchaste life,” writes St. Thomas of Villanova.
Lives of the Saints: Compiled from Authentic Sources with a Practical Instruction on the Life of Each Saint, for Every Day in the Year by Rev. F. X. Weninger. Permissu Superiorum. New York: P. O’Shea, Publisher, 67 Barclay Street and 42 Park Place. 1876.