Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Saint Christopher, 1969, the Catholic Church, and All That

My son-in-law and I were talking about candles, factories, and a manufacturing robot that he and my son are developing, when St. Christopher's status came up. It's that kind of a family.

He (my son-in-law) hadn't heard of St. Christopher's 'demotion' - which wasn't so much a 'decanonization' as an official recognition of what the Church had known for - centuries. No surprises there - my son-in-law's memory doesn't go back to 1969, and there are many aspects of Catholicism that are more important than the story behind all those dashboard ornaments.

St. Christopher, Documentation, and an Ancient Church

St. Christopher had a feast day on the Roman Catholic calendar until 1969. That was when the Church essentially caught up on some bookkeeping, and officially recognized that St. Christopher - had never been a saint. Not a formally canonized one, that is.

So: no more official feast day for St. Christopher, and several others. But what I've read indicates that there's no rule against personal devotion to Christopher. He's just not on the official rolls. And never has been.

There was, almost certainly, a Christopher in the late third and early fourth century: right around the year 300. But the detailed story we've got of St. Christopher only goes back to around 1260. Yes, there have been popular devotions to St. Christopher since before the Vikings. Folks still pray to St. Christopher, and my guess is that we'll still be doing so a thousand years from now. Some of us, anyway.

But there just doesn't seem to be enough documentation on him to warrant his inclusion in the list of recognized Saints.

The formal process for canonization of Saints didn't start until - well, actually the process has been evolving for over a thousand years. It would be possible to say the current system started in some particular century - but that would involve using one of the steps along the way as the 'real' beginning. And I think that's a little arbitrary. I've put links to a few resources, under Background.

The Weird Stuff

There are some - goofy, in my opinion - notions about Christianity in general, and Catholics in particular. I was going to write about that today, but it's getting late, I've still got dishes to wash and a chaplet to pray. And anyway, I've been over that stuff before:
Now, back to St. Christopher and all that - Saint-related posts:


Brigid said...

Interesting place for a comma: "and my guess is that we'll still be doing so, a thousand years from now."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...

Brigid, found, fixed: and thanks!

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.