Today is the feast day of Saint Christopher. In general, there are two stories told about him: a short one and a longer one. I thought I'd retell those stories, for everyone who hasn't heard them before.
Both stories say that he was a large, ugly man whose name was Offero. Loosly translated, offero is Latin for "the carrier", and that was his job: he carried heavy things for other people.
Specifically, Offero worked for one of the local kings, and he was very proud of his job, because everyone said his king was the strongest king in the world. This appealed to him, because he was a strong giant, but one day, the king and his party passed by a church, and the king made the sign of the cross.
Offero asked the king why he did that, and the king explained that if you make the sign of the cross, it will keep you safe from the devil. Offero thought about that for a while, and he decided that if the king was afraid of the devil, then he really wasn't the strongest king in the world after all.
So Offero quit his job working for the king, and he set off in search of the devil, because he wanted to see the person that the king was so afraid of. Eventually, Offero found a group of dangerous ruffians living in the forest, and the leader of the group said that he was the devil. He also bragged that he is the strongest king in the world, and that's exactly who Offero was looking for, so Offero started working for him.
About a month later, the devil and his demonic crew passed by the same church Offero saw earlier, and Satan ran away in fear as soon as he saw the cross on top of the church. When Offero asked him why, Satan explained that the cross is the symbol of Jesus Christ, who is immune to the power of Satan and who conquered sin and death. Offero thought about this for a while, and he decided that if Jesus was able to defeat Satan, then Jesus must be the strongest king in the world.
The shorter version of the story of Saint Christopher starts here, at this point in the longer story. Offero decided he would serve Jesus, the strongest king in the world, but he didn't know where Jesus was or how to serve him. He tried to find someone who knew more about Jesus, and eventually, he met an old man who said that the best way to serve Jesus is to serve other people.
The old man lived in a hut, next to a strong river. There was no bridge leading over the river, and many people had trouble crossing it. Since Offero was large and strong, the old man suggested that he could help other people by carrying them and their things across the river.
Offero lived with the old man, and he helped carry people across the river whenever they wanted. It wasn't much different from his previous job as a carrier, and he managed to help a lot of travellers, but he still didn't understand what helping others had to do with Jesus.
One night, there was a terrible rainstorm, and Offero was hoping to stay inside the hut, when he thought he heard a voice outside. It was a tiny voice, and it was hard to hear through the rain, so he went outside to investigate. There, he saw a small child, who asked to be carried to the other side of the river.
Offero looked at the river, which was higher than usual, due to the rainstorm. The current was also stronger than usual, and it looked dangerous. However, Offero realized that it would be too dangerous for the child to cross alone, so he put the child on his back and started wading through the river.
At first, there weren't any problems, but then the child seemed to grow heavier and heavier, as the water seemed to rise higher and higher. It grew colder, as the winds blew furiously, and Offero clutched his cloak tightly. He almost fell down a few times, despite his great strength, and by the time he reached the other shore, Offero was practically holding on to his walking stick for support.
Offero let the child down gently on the shore, and he breathed a great sigh of relief to have such a huge weight off of his back. Offero asked the small child why he was so heavy, and the child responded, "I am Jesus Christ, the king you have been looking for. I weigh so much because I carry the sins of the world. Thank you for helping lighten my burden."
The child Jesus disappeared shortly afterwards, but not before he changed Offero's name from Offero (the carrier) to Christopher (Christ--Offero, the Christ Carrier). Saint Christopher later became a travelling preacher, and he managed to convert thousands of people to the faith with his inspired homilies. That is why, today, Saint Christopher is known as the patron saint of travellers.
Eventually, the Roman Emperor Decius, who outlawed Christianity, heard about Christopher, and he sent a company of soldiers to capture him. The soldiers had no trouble finding Christopher, because he was giving a sermon to a large crowd. However, they were so interested by the homily that after they arrested him, they spoke with him for hours about Jesus and Christianity, and eventually, the soldiers asked Christopher to baptize them before they turned him over to the emperor.
Emperor Decius was furious that Christopher converted his soldiers, and he had Christopher tortured several times, in hopes that Christopher would give up the Christian faith. When this didn't work, the emperor had him beheaded on July 25, 254.
Skeptics say that some (or all) of the stories about Saint Christopher are made up, but this is hardly a surprise, seeing as these skeptics say the exact same thing about Jesus. Still, the story of Saint Christopher conveys a wholesome truth. We ought all to be Christ-carriers, by preserving faith, hope and charity in our hearts, and by receiving Our Lord worthily in holy communion. He alone is worthy of our service. In the service that we owe to others, we ought to serve God by doing his will. We cannot divide our hearts, for our Lord himself says, "No man can serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24). If you serve the world, it deceives you, for it cannot give you what it promises. If you serve sin, Satan is your master. He, too, deceives his servants, and leads them to destruction. Christ on the cross conquered these two tyrants, and with his help you can also vanquish them. Therefore, give yourself to him with all your heart, and you shall find peace in this world, and eternal bliss in the next. St. Augustine learned this truth by sad experience, and therefore exclaims, "You have created us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."