Comments to: David Woods
Last Updated: October 1999
Modern Cult of St. Christopher

Catholic Position on St. Christopher

(the reply of Msgr. Wm. B. Smith, St. Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie, Yonkers, NY 1074, U.S.A. to a question concerning the Church's position on St. Christopher as published in the October 1999 issue of that excellent journal Homiletic and Pastoral Review)

The Calendarium Romanum [=Roman Calendar] was revised by the instruction of Vatican Council II and published by Pope Paul VI (2/14/69) becoming effective on 1 January 1970. The Decree and General Norms for the Roman Calendar and Liturgical Year were Published in Latin (1969) and an English translation of the official Text and Commentary was published by the United States Catholic Conference [=National Conference of Catholic Bishops] (Wash. DC [v-439]) in 1976.

The Roman Calendar had needed to be revised. The old but then revised calendar of St. Pius V (1570) had 65 greater feasts. By 1960, there were 21 feasts of the first class; 31 of second class; 180 of third class plus 106 commemorations. New saints since 1570 were added to the old calendar and sometimes Christian rulers or Religious Orders petitioned the Pope to have saints of their country or community celebrated by the universal church. In time, feasts of devotion were greatly multiplied and the sanctoral cycle grew out of proportion.

The Fathers of Vatican II specifically directed that the feasts of the saints not take precedence over the feasts commemorating the mysteries of salvation. Many of the saints should be left to a particular (local) Church, nation or Religious family to celebrate, while extending to the universal Church those saints of universal importance (Vat. II, SC, n. 111).

In accord with that conciliar directive, the revision of the proper of the saints was based on five principles: (1) that the number of devotional feasts be limited; (2) that the history of the lives of the saints in the 1960 calendar be subjected to critical study; (3) that only saints of important significance be kept on the universal calendar; (4) that the days for observing feasts be re-examined; and (5) that the universal calendar contain, as far as possible, saints from every race and period of time.

Chapter II pf the Commentary then proceeds to explain and apply all five principles in some detail. An historical commentary is then presented explaining the choices and dates on the new calendar, and, a separate commentary that explains the changes or "variations" from the old calendar.

The specific mention of St. Christopher is found in the list of "variations" under 25 July. 25 July is on the revised calendar what it was on the old calendar - the feast of St. James the Apostle. There is the following notation: "the memorial of Christopher, which entered the Roman Calendar in 1550, is not a part of the ancient Roman tradition. It is now left to particular calendars. Although the Acts of the life of Christopher are legendary, the existence of his cult is very old" (p. 86).

Notice, there is no declaration of "non-personhood"; and a particular cult or local calendar can make provision for the memorial where there is particular or local reason to do so.

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Modern Churches Dedicated to St. Christopher

Some modern churches dedicated to St. Christopher. If your church is dedicated to St. Christopher and has a homepage, but is not listed here, please send me the URL