St. Christopher is often depicted carrying Christ on his back.
St. Christopher is often depicted carrying Christ on his back.

Little is known about St. Christopher's life or death, but he remains one of the most popular saints. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Christopher was a martyr who likely lived during the 3rd century. Legend has it that Christopher would carry people across raging streams on his back as a livelihood. Bookbinders, gardeners, and mariners have all selected him as a patron saint, and his statue was often placed near the entrances of churches, dwellings, and bridges. Christopher remains a popular saint, although his feast day was removed from the Catholic liturgical calendar, leading to some confusion.

Christopher's Life

Christopher's name translates to "Christ-bearer." Because little is known about his life, many stories have sprung up since to explain his origins. Although his father, a king, was said to be a heathen, Christopher's mother prayed for a child. Born as Repobus, he changed his named to Christopher after his baptism. According to "The Lives of the Saints" by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, Christopher was burned, shot with arrows and then beheaded, thus becoming a martyr -- a partial basis for his sainthood.

Canonization

Canonization -- the process by which the church turns a normal person into a saint -- did not exist during Christopher’s time. This means that the Catholic Church never officially canonized him, as it has many of its other saints. In truth, many early, pre-canonization saints entered the church as saints by popular agreement in Christian communities. However, the Catholic Church still accepts these individuals as full saints, despite their earning their sainthood through a de facto consensus rather than through a formal process. Thus, Christopher was and remains a saint.

Liturgical Calendar

Some confusion over Christopher's status may exist because his feast day is no longer named on the liturgical calendar issued by the Catholic Church. This means the day is therefore no longer widely celebrated at mass. However, Christopher's feast day may still be celebrated by parishes bearing his name or by those who are especially devoted to him. Having his feast day removed from the calendar does not make Christopher any less of a saint or indicate that he was removed from the Catholic Church.

Removal

The removal of Christopher was based not on his popularity or his status as a saint, both of which remain strong, but on his obscure origins. To cut down on the number of feast days, Pope Paul VI led an effort at the Second Vatican Council to removed saints whose basis for sainthood was based more on tradition than on historical facts. Because of this, he was a natural candidate for removal.