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May 9 Saints of the Day – Christopher of Lycia and George Preca

On this date in 1887, Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show opened in London. Said one confused patron, “I never saw anything like this when I was in Cornwall.”

Christopher of LyciaChristopher of Lycia (d. ca. 250) was strong, tall (by some accounts about 7.5 feet), and exceedingly handsome. Fearing his good looks would bring him temptation (say, to gaze in mirrors or sit for portraits), he asked God to make him ugly, which He did. Because of this he was called “Reprebus” or “reprobate,” since, as everybody who watches Disney movies knows, all reprobates are ugly. Probably through confusion between the words “Cananeus” (“Canaanite,” which he probably was) and “canineus,” (“dog,” which he probably wasn’t), he is sometimes shown as having the head of a dog. One could do worse.

Reprobus desired to serve the greatest king in the world, and started with the local king, who claimed that for himself (as do most kings — comes with the territory). But when the king crossed himself out of fear when someone mentioned the devil, he reasoned that Satan must be the greater king, and went off to seek him. He found a man who styled himself “Satan,” a member of an outlaw gang, and began to serve him. Then one day he saw “Satan” shying away from a roadside cross, and determined to leave him and follow Christ. A handy local hermit suggested he do that by helping people cross the nearby river, putting his great strength and height (and ability to dogpaddle) to the service of others.

One stormy day a little child came to the ford, and insisted on being taken across, despite conditions. As they crossed, the river mounted, and the child grew heavier and heavier. Christopher all but despaired of making the crossing, but he was doggedly determined to do his duty. When they reached the far shore, he said, “I felt like I was carrying the whole world!” The child said, “You were, for I made the world, and carry it upon my shoulders. I am Christ, whom you serve.” Before Christopher could reply, He was gone. This is of course how he got his name “Christopher,” which means “The one who carries Christ.”

He ended his life a martyr, in the usual manner: various nasty tortures failed to kill him, and he was beheaded. His skull resides in a church in Rab, Croatia. He is the patron of many causes and professions, including, of course, transportation workers and people with toothache.

George PrecaGeorge (Ġorġ) Preca (1880 – 1962) of Malta was almost prevented from becoming a priest by a collapsed lung, but a miraculous healing through the intercession of St. Joseph permitted him to be ordained. It was his belief that the people of Malta, although Catholics, didn’t know their faith so very well. Reflecting on a saying his spiritual director at seminary was fond of, “God has chosen you to teach his people,” he founded the Society of Christian Doctrine to teach laypeople the catechism. The Society is commonly known by the acronym M.U.S.E.U.M., which (as anybody could guess) stands for Magister Utinam Sequater Evangelium Universus Mundus, the translation of which no two sources seem to agree on. One gives, “Master, [may it be] that the whole world would follow the Gospel,” which is probably about as close as we’re going to get.

In 1909, the powers that be shut down the Society, thinking that the desire to educate working-class people was proof positive that George had lost his mind (in fact he hadn’t even misplaced it). His idea to not only teach the catechism to laypeople, but to train lay people to teach other laypeople the catechism, probably didn’t help the case for his sanity. But the Society kept on keeping on, and it was officially approved by the Bishop of Malta in 1932. Many centers were opened throughout Malta, which served not only as schools for catechesists, but also as places for young people to hang out. George went on to write over 150 books and pamphlets in his native Maltese. The society has since spread to many other countries, most notably Australia (we will not speculate on what that says about the catichetical knowledge of the Aussies). George was canonized in 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

May 9 (Wikipedia)
Martyr Christopher of Lycia (OCA) – Main source
Saint Christopher (Wikipedia)
Saint George Preca (SQPN) – Main Source
Dun Gorg Preca: His Life (Maltamedia) (which is a great name for a media company from Malta)
Origins (Society of Christian Doctrine)


About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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