St. James the Greater
St. James the Greater
Little Details of James the Greater
Nothing is known about the early life of St. James the Greater. However, it was already established that he was one of the Apostles of Jesus Christ. He was thought to be the cousin of Jesus Himself, as the son of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s sister and the brother of Jude Thaddeus. He was a fisherman with his brother John, Zebedee their father, and their partner, Simon. John and James were followers of John the Baptist. Later on, they became disciples of Jesus.
One of Jesus’ Close Apostle
In the Gospels, James, along with his brother John, were called by Jesus (see Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:19-20; Luke 5:1-11). They left their work as fishermen and became “fishers of men”. James, John and Peter were present in Jesus’ events recorded in the Gospels such as:
(1) Healing of Jairus’ daughter: “He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise!’ The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.” (Mark 5:37-42)
(2) The transfiguration: “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” (Matthew 17:1-2)
(3) and His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.’” (Mark 14:32-34)
Jesus called the two brothers James and John “Boanerges” which means “sons of thunder” (see Mark 3:17). This was because they sometimes lost their tempers. On their journey, the people of a village turned them away. Upset with this, James and John grew angry that the villagers would not welcome Jesus. They asked Jesus if He wanted to call down fire to destroy the place. Jesus had to correct them.
James’ Mission and Martyrdom
After the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, James made a pilgrimage to the Iberian Peninsula to proclaim the Gospel. However, when he returned to Judea, he was arrested. In the year 44, he was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I. His execution was detailed in Acts of the Apostles (chapter 12:1-3): “About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also.”
According to tradition, as he was not allowed to be buried following his martyrdom, James’ remains were transported to the Iberian Peninsula (modern-day Galicia) and was said to be buried in Compostela in Spain by some of his followers. His remains were discovered and moved to a tomb in the ninth century. Today, his relics are found in the Cathedral of Santiago. Because Santiago de Compostela is the most frequently visited place pilgrims migrate to following Rome and Jerusalem, Pope Leo declared it a shrine. His feast day is July 25.
Five Interesting Facts About St. James the Greater
- St. James the Greater was the first Apostle to be martyred.
- St. James the Greater was called “the Greater” because he was either older or taller than the other apostle named James, son of Alphaeus.
- St. James the Greater is the patron saint of pilgrims, laborers, rheumatism, several Latin American countries and Spain.
- In Christian art, St. James the Greater is represented in the garb of a pilgrim, with staff, gourd, and scallop shell.
- St. James the Greater is often also depicted riding a white horse into battle. According to legend, during the battle of Clavijo, he suddenly appeared on a white horse, waving aloft a white standard, and leading the Christians to victory.
Prayer to St. James the Greater
Almighty ever-living God,who consecrated the first fruits of your Apostlesby the blood of Saint James,grant, we pray,that your Church may be strengthened by his confession of faithand constantly sustained by his protection.Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, for ever and ever. Amen.