I like St. Christopher, but not for the reason you think.
St. Christopher is an obvious choice to take as my “wing man” on my Camino. He is the patron saint of travelers. When you see his picture or statue (look for him on dashboards) he is the tall man holding a child on his shoulders.
But for me, alas, he raises many questions. Let me review his story for you.
Legend has it that he was a very large man – tall, not fat. A little over seven feet tall, by some accounts. He wanted to serve the greatest there was, so he decided to serve the King. But, one day, he saw the King bow down and cross himself. When he asked why he did that, the King told him that he was afraid of the devil.
So, Christopher says to himself, Hey, Here’s a guy even the King is afraid of. I’m going to serve him! So off he goes to find the devil.
Soon, he comes to a dark, scary forest. He’s a big guy, so he isn’t afraid, but soon he finds a band of robbers. They’re pretty bad and one of them calls himself the devil. St. Christopher says Aha, I’ve been looking for you! And he joins the robbers. But, one day, he saw the robber who was called the devil bow down and cross himself. When he asked why the devil did that, the devil said he was afraid of Christ.
So, St. Christopher says to himslef, Hey, here’s a guy even the devil is afraid of. I’m going to serve him so off he goes to find Christ.
Soon, he meets a hermit living in a cave by a river. He asks the hermit if he knows where to find Christ. The hermit says, Sure, and begins to teach St. Christopher about Christ. Pretty soon, Chris becomes a Christian.
How can I serve Christ? Christopher wants to know. Well, the hermit says, You can fast and pray. Christopher thinks about it and says, No, I don’t think I can do that. Is there anything else I can do? The hermit thinks and says, You’re big and strong. Why don’t you help carry people across this river. Everyone always has a hard time doing that. Christopher says, Great and so begins his job as traveler carrier.
One day, a child comes along and says, Hey, can you get me to the other side and Chris says Sure. But halfway across, while Chris is carrying the kid (you know who) on his shoulders, the child gets really heavy and the river gets really crazy. He has to work really hard to get the kid across but he does.
Once on the other side, Christopher says, Wow, kid, you were really heavy to carry and the kid says, Oh,yeah? Well, I’m Christ and I carry the sins of the world on my shoulders! Then he disappears!
O.k. I have a few problems with this story.
1. Why did people cross the river at the worst part of the river. Why didn’t they just go to a better part of the river and cross?
2. Boats had been invented. And rafts. So why did Christopher have to walk people across? Why not ferry them?
3. Didn’t anyone think it was weird that this little kid needed to cross the river by himself? There were no adults with him? Even in olden days, people took care of their children and didn’t let them travel alone.
4. Didn’t the hermit get mad? I mean, there he was, fasting and praying and living in a cave and who does Christ show up to? The new guy!
But here’s what I like about this story.
Christopher made up his own mind. He used his eyes to observe what people around him were doing. He thought the king was the greatest, then the devil, but changed his mind based on what he saw. He had no problem saying, Well, I guess I was wrong and continuing his search for truth.
When the hermit told him how to serve Christ, Christopher knew enough about himself to know that there were better options.
From a Church built on obedience, here’s a saint who says, humbly to be sure, Well, yes, I understand what you’re saying, but I think there might be a better way for me to serve Christ.
Mother Theresa taught school in India for 20 years, then decided that a better way for her to serve would be to be with the poorest of the poor. She got push-back from some of her superiors but she knew better than they how she could serve Christ best.
That’s why I’ll take Chris with me. He was practical and reality based. He trusted his instincts and wasn’t afraid to keep looking for the real deal.
And he has that superpower of getting through rivers.
Yes. I can use someone like that on my team.