Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, by Pius Parsch:
St. Christopher, one of the "Fourteen Sainted Helpers," has been highly venerated since ancient times in both the Eastern and Western Churches. The older martyrologies say that he suffered death for Christ; in more recent centuries piety has woven garlands of legend about his name.
Christopher has become a giant who wished to enter the service of the most powerful of lords. He first thought that the emperor qualified; later he selected the devil, and finally he discovered Christ to be the most powerful Sovereign over all the world. From then on he served Him with greatest fidelity. Because Christopher was of giant stature, he practiced charity by carrying pilgrims across a certain river. Once a child asked to be taken across. He complied as usual. While carrying the child on his shoulders through the river, it became heavier and heavier, and finally he could hardly support it. Then the revelation was made: "You are carrying the Lord of the world!" It was Christ (Christopher means "Christ-carrier").
The legend has the nature of a symbol. Bishop Vida gives the following exposition: "Because you, O Christopher, always carried Christ in your heart, the artists place Christ on your shoulders. Because you suffered much, they paint you standing deep in the waters. And because you could not accomplish this without being large of stature, they have made you a giant, bigger than great temples; therefore do you live under the open heavens during the greatest cold. And since you conquered all that is difficult, they have given you a blossoming palm as traveling staff."