St. Christopher Day

A stained glass church window picturing the traditional image of Saint Christopher bearing Christ.

St. Christopher day is now known as a memorial day of St. Christopher on July 25th

St. Christopher's feast day dropped from the list! Have you ever signed up for a club, a team, a school course or similar and show up the first day and told your name is not on the list? Nervous? Angry? Disappointed? Confused?

The Saint Christopher feast day of July 25 was removed from the Roman Catholic calendar of saints in 1969. Maybe in your situation things were eventually resolved and you were put on the list. Not so with St. Christopher because up to the present, July 25 is not a day dedicated as his feast day. The explanation as the reason for this is the commemoration was not of the Roman tradition because it began around 1500 and because of the originally slow acceptance into the Roman calendar. Saint Christopher is still recognized by the RomanCatholic Church as a martyr, but he no longer has a July 25 feast day.

How did such an apparent injustice come about? There are known historical facts that St. Christopher did live in the late third and early fourth century. He was taken prisoner in a war with the Romans in North Africa, present day Libya. He was forced to travel a great distance back to Rome and was assigned as a Roman army officer during the reign of Emperor Diocletian. This emperor decided to persecute Christians, and to his surprise one of his personnel guards refused to participate and proclaimed himself a Christian. This Christian is our current day St. George. The emperor ordered that St. George be tortured and killed. Army officer St. Christopher watched the torture and killing, and shortly after declared himself to also be a Christian. The emperor declared St. Christopher be tortured and put to death. A Christian martyr is someone who dies in defense of the Roman Catholic faith. Based on this definition, St. Christopher is definitely a martyr and Catholics certainly believe that. Here is the dilemma : a saint had to be a person who led basically a faith-filled holy life and since virtually nothing is known about St. Christopher's personal conduct in his life, he was dropped from the calendar of feasts.

Ironically, the best known story and symbol of Saint Christopher is the saint walking in turbulent water carrying a child on his shoulders. This image is derived from possibly a monastery schoolboy's story writing in the thirteenth century. A writer named Jacobus de Voragine wrote a collection of wondrous tales named Golden Legend. One of the stories is the basis for the legend of St. Christopher as the helper to the traveler crossing a dangerous river. This is the basis of his patronage as the saint for travelers. The formal canonization of saints began in the sixteenth century, and prior to that time saints were declared by popular approval. In 1969 when the Catholic Church investigated a number of saints it was decided that St. Christopher was mostly created by the legend in Golden Legend and by subsequent popular acclaim, and most of his life history is unknown. He was summarily removed from the calendar of saints and thereby was removed his former feast day of July 25.

 

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