Monday, May 9, 2011

St Christopher, the Dog-Headed Traveler?

In the Life of the Church, on May 9th we commemorate St Christopher (lit. Christ-bearer).  He is the patron saint of travelers due to one of the many legends associated with his life.  Besides the popular medallions of St Christopher, there are two famous types of icons: one as a strong, tall man, but with the head of a dog (some historians believe that he was descended from the Canaanites, while others say from the "Cynoscephalai" [literally "dog-heads"] of Thessaly); the other as a strong, tall man carrying a Child across water. 

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He lived in Lycia during the third century and suffered martyrdom about the year 250, during the reign of the emperor Decius (249-251). Although little is known of his actual life, there are a great many legends and traditions associated with this Saint. 

Christopher once made a vow to serve the greatest king in the world, so he first offered to serve the local king. Seeing that the king feared the devil, Christopher thought he would leave the king to serve Satan. Learning that the devil feared Christ, Christopher went in search of Him. St Babylas of Antioch told him that he could best serve Christ by doing well the task for which he was best suited. Therefore, he became a ferryman, carrying people across a river on his shoulders. 

Christopher carried a Child Who insisted on being taken across at that very moment. With every step Christopher took, the Child seemed to become heavier. Halfway across the stream, Christopher felt that his strength would give out, and that he and the Child would be drowned in the river. As they reached the other side, the Child told him that he had just carried all the sins of the world on his shoulders. Then he recognized Christ, the King Whom he had vowed to serve.

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I particularily enjoy the story of Christopher carrying the Christ-child across the water.  Its a story of intrigue, that compels us to think of our own relationship with Christ.  His story should encourage us as Christians to use our God-given talents to offer service to mankind in whatever capacity available to us.

O Holy Martyr Christopher, pray unto God for us!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

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