Long, long ago there dwelt a giant who had great strength. He was called Offero, a name which means “bearer.” So proud was Offero of his powerful arms and legs, and of his mighty chest, that he made up his mind to put them to the service of the greatest and bravest of all kings. But who was this mightiest of all rulers? At first he followed a king at whose name all nations trembled: but before long he found that the king himself was afraid, for he shook and grew pale at the name of Satan. So Offero became a follower of Satan, who was a dark and fearful prince. But it was not long before Offero found that he too was afraid. For one day, as he marched along with the other warriors, Offero noticed that Satan grew pale and turned away his eyes as they passed a shrine which was set up by the roadside, and that he trembled at the name of Christ. So once again Offero had no master to serve with his great strength. He set forth, therefore, to seek for Christ. For many days he travelled, but he met no one who could tell him where Christ could be found. Then, one evening, weary and footsore, he came to a small wooden shelter, where lived an old holy man. Offero asked the hermit if he could help him in his search for Christ. The old man told him that Christ could only be found by people who were willing to live kind and unselfish lives. “Are you willing to use your strength to help the weak?” he asked. When Offero said that that he was willing, the hermit led him to the banks of a wide and fast-flowing river. “Over the river,” said the hermit, “many pilgrims pass. Sometimes the current is too strong for them and they are swept away and drowned. If you would find Christ, live here and help to carry across from bank to bank those who are weak.” This Offero agreed to do, and for many days he worked, bearing upon his back the aged and the sick and the feeble, and carrying them in safety to the other side of the river.
One night a great storm arose, and Offero sat huddled up for warmth in the little hut he had built for himself on the banks of the river. Above the roaring of the wind, he suddenly heard the cry of a child. Running out, he found a little boy sitting by the side of the swift flowing water. “Will you carry me over?” asked the child. Offero bent and lifted the child on to his huge shoulders and waded out into the river. But as he went the child grew strangely heavy. With the waters swirling about him, Offero struggled on but he could hardly bear the great weight on his shoulders. At the deepest part of the river it seemed as if he must sink, but he struggled on, slowly and painfully, until at last he came to the other side. There he gently set the child down. As he did so, the Child spoke to him. “You have borne me bravely and well, Offero. Did you find me heavy?” “I did,” answered Offero, straightening his back; “Had I carried the whole world on my shoulders it could not have been heavier.” Then the Child answered him softly: “You have borne the world on your shoulders, Offero; for I am the Christ you have been seeking and I bear the weight of all the cares of the world. So when you carried me across the torrent you did indeed carry the world. And now that your service to man has helped you to find your King, you shall be known from this day as Saint Christopher, the bearer of Christ.” So the giant Offero became Saint Christopher and has been the guardian of all those who travel the world ever since.
The Lion and The Saint extract is printed by kind permission of Pearson Publishers who hold the original copyright when this extract was published by the Beacon Library in 1955.