St Christopher (July 25)
St Christopher "Christ-bearer" was a martyr beheaded around 250 in Lycia, near the western end of the southern coast of modern Turkey, under the persecution of the Emperor Decius. Two hundred years later a church was dedicated to him in northern Turkey.
Stories about Christopher proliferated, attaining their best-known form in Jacobus de Varagine's The Golden Legend, compiled around 1260 and published by Caxton in 1483.
"Christopher,we read, "was of the lineage of the Canaanites, and he was of a right great stature, and had a terrible and fearful cheer and countenance.This giant, originally named Reprobus, "took it into his head to seek out the greatest prince in the world, that he might serve and obey him".
When he visited a king, however, he noted that this supposedly all-powerful monarch, who was a Christian, made the Sign of the Cross when the Devil was named. "Is the Devil," he demanded. "more mighty and greater than thou art? I will go seek him for to be my lord and this servant," In the desert he came across a company of knights, one of whom; particularly cruel and horrid, acknowledged that he was the Devil. Christopher accepted him as his lord until the day when he saw him turn aside to avoid a Cross. Pressed to explain himself, the Devil admitted that "there was a Man called Christ, which was hanged on the Cross, and when I see His sign I am sore afraid". So Christopher understood that he must seek a new master.
A hermit instructed him in the Christian faith and asked if he knew the river where so many were lost. "Because thou art noble and high of stature and strong in thy members, thou shalt be resident by that river and thou shalt bear over all them that pass there." Christopher faithfully carried out this command. One day he found a child on the riverbank who asked to be taken over. When he put the boy on his shoulder and strode into the stream "the water arose and swelled more and more; and the child was heavy as lead.., insomuch as Christopher had great anguish and was afeared to be drowned".
Somehow he reached the other side. "Child,he remonstrated, "thou hast put me in great peril; thou weighest almost as I had the world upon me, I might bear no greater burden."
"Christopher," returned the child, "thou has not only borne all the world upon thee, but thou has borne Him that created and made all the world upon they shoulders. I am Jesus Christ the King, to whom thou servest in this work."
Christopher became the patron saint of travellers and more recently, of motorists.