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The St. Christopher medal is inscribed: "Saint Christopher Our Protector." The patron saint of travelers who gave his life to the service of Christ and others.
Often, people recall Christopher's story as an uncomplicated one who assisted travelers seeking to cross a dangerous river. His service to travelers earned him the honor of being the patron saint and protector of travelers. It is the story of a man who was, himself, a traveler, and of his journey to Christ where he found his true destination in the service of the Lord.
The story of St. Christopher and the St. Christopher Medal is a captivating part of Christian gospel. He was a Canaanite 7.5 feet tall with a fearsome face. He is believed to be a large man of immense strength who lived in the third century during the reign of Decius.
According to legend, Christopher's given name was Reprobus and that he once served the king of Canaan, who he believed to be “the greatest king there was”. One day he saw that the king feared the devil. Upon learning this, he decided to depart from the king’s service and seek out the devil. He came across one of whom declared himself as the devil and Reprobus decided to serve him. However, when he saw his new master avoid a wayside cross, he learned that the devil feared Christ. He left the devil’s service and set out on a journey to find Christ.
He encountered a hermit who instructed him on the Christian faith. The hermit told Reprobus that in order to serve Jesus, he recommends fasting and prayer. This option did not suit him very well. As an alternative, the hermit suggested that he might use his strength to help travelers cross a dangerous river. This was a service that suited him perfectly.
One day a child arrived to be carried across the river. Reprobus took the child upon his shoulders, but as he crossed the river, the child grew heavier until Reprobus feared he would fall and that they would both drown.
When he asked the child why he was so heavy, the child revealed that he was Jesus Christ and answered that he was heavy with the weight of the world's sins. Not one to give up, he forged ahead with considerable difficulty and crossed the river with the Christ child on his shoulders. When they reached the opposite bank, Christ asked Reprobus to press his staff into the ground. When he did, the staff turned into a beautiful flowering tree, and he was rewarded.
Christ then baptized Reprobus in the river and gave him his Christian name which - Christopher - means "Christ-bearer."
The St. Christopher medal depicts a bearded, middle-aged man. Upon his shoulders sit a child representing Christ, and in his hand is a staff. The inscription "Svts. Christophorvs Protector Noster," which means "Saint Christopher Our Protector" circles the medallion.
Christopher spent the remainder of his life in the service of Christ and worked tirelessly to spread Christ's teachings. He died a martyr in Lycia, in 251 A.D.
During the 1960s, the Catholic Church reviewed and revised the Calendar of Saints, and eliminated the feast days of several saints including the celebration of St. Christopher which was on July 25th. Although Christopher does remain a saint, his day of celebration, July 25, is no longer listed on the Catholic calendar.
Despite this confusion, devotion to St. Christopher continues. Travelers wear St. Christopher medals around their necks, place St. Christopher medallions on their dashboards, carry St. Christopher medal key chains in their pockets, or clip them to sun visors to keep him close and to protect them.
The medal is worn to protect travelers and is also said to offer protection against lightening, pestilence, flood and epilepsy. St. Christopher also has a following with soldiers. In cases where a soldier is unable to wear or keep a medal on his person, he might carry a St. Christopher prayer card in his pocket.