Step aside for a minute, James…
According to what I’ve been told, I was named shortly after the revision of the Roman calendar that removed St. Christopher and others because of a lack of firm historical reliability (but left the feast of St. James on this day). This removal of Christopher has led to the popular Catholic myth that they “de-sainted” him, as if Peter opened the gates and shoved the gentle giant out headlong into the abyss. You can’t be de-sainted; you are either in the eternal presence of God or you are not. Take heart that if you make it there, you’re never going to be asked to leave.
The story of St. Christopher does seem to suggest more of a pious legend than a historical figure. In the version of the story that I was told, Christopher the giant desired to serve the most powerful person in the world, which led him to the service of the devil. One day, however, he saw the devil blanche at the sight of a cross by the side of the road, which led Christopher to wonder who could cause his master such fear. Clearly, that person must be more powerful. This led to Christopher’s continued search for the most powerful person in the world, and his graceful encounter with the Christ-child at the river. (For what it’s worth, I’ve never personally read this version of the story – it was told to me orally, which is a fun testament to the power of oral tradition.)
There’s a lot to question about the likely historical accuracy of this story. But in our world today, so supposedly obsessed with facts (at least when they support our side), we often lose perspective on the truth. There may or may not have been an actual giant who carried Jesus across a river. But the story’s revelation, about the weight of the sins of the world, and an invitation to help bear that burden for others, is the truth…and that’s enough to make St. Christopher worthy of veneration.