Saint James, apostle (Feast: July 25)

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Saint James, apostle (Feast: July 25)

By Michael McKenna, Director Office of Liturgy.

There are two James’ in the scriptural accounts of the Twelve and they are distinguished from one another as "James the Greater" and the other "James the Less".  Among Jesus' first disciples, “James the Greater” was fishing with his father and John the Apostle when scripture records that Jesus urged the Galilee fishermen who had caught no fish that day, to cast their nets in the water once again. The ensuing catch is described as so abundant that after emptying the fish on board, the boats nearly sank from their weight.

James, with Peter and John, are privileged among the disciples to have been present at those two events that revealed Christ's glory as the Son of God and the meaning of his redemptive sacrifice – his Transfiguration on Mount Tabor and Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Treasured as the first apostle to be martyred, James's death is the only biblical record we have of the death of one of the Apostles. The Evangelist Luke tells us that King Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great, "laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the Church. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword" (Acts 12:2).

Pope Benedict in his catechesis on the apostles described James as an eloquent example of generous adherence to Christ.

“He, who initially had requested, through his mother, to be seated with his brother next to the Master in his Kingdom, was precisely the first to drink the chalice of the passion and to share martyrdom with the Apostles.

And, in the end, summarising everything, we can say that the journey, not only exterior but above all interior, from the mount of the Transfiguration to the mount of the Agony, symbolizes the entire pilgrimage of Christian life, among the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God, as the Second Vatican Council says. In following Jesus, like St James, we know that even in difficulties we are on the right path.”

Represented in Christian Art dressed as a pilgrim, with staff, gourd, and scallop-shell, James is the patron saint of Spain and, according to legend, his remains are held in Santiago de Compostela. “St James and strike for Spain” was the battle cry of medieval Christian Spanish armies against the Moors. May invoking his name even today obtain for us strength and consolation in our daily struggle against evil.