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St. James the Greater, Apostle - July 25th


St. James the Greater, Apostle (History Today)

"Be Thou, O Lord, the Sanctifier and Protector of Thy people: so that defended by the aid of Thine Apostle James, they may please Thee in their manner of life, and serve Thee in peace of soul. Through our Lord." - Roman Catholic Daily Missal, 1962

The son of Zebedee and Salome (Cf. Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; 16:1). Zahn asserts that Salome was the daughter of a priest. James is styled "the Greater" to distinguish him from the Apostle James "the Less", who was probably shorter of stature.

We know nothing of St. James's early life. He was the brother of John, the beloved disciple, and probably the elder of the two.

His parents seem to have been people of means as appears from the following facts.

  • Zebedee was a fisherman of the Lake of Galilee, who probably lived in or near Bethsaida (John 1:44), perhaps in Capharnaum; and had some boatmen or hired men as his usual attendants (Mark 1:20).

  • Salome was one of the pious women who afterwards followed Christ and "ministered unto him of their substance" (cf. Matthew 27:55, sq.; Mark 15:40; 16:1; Luke 8:2 sq.; 23:55-24:1).

  • St. John was personally known to the high-priest (John 18:16); and must have had wherewithal to provide for the Mother of Jesus (John 19:27).

It is probable, according to Acts 4:13, that John (and consequently his brother James) had not received the technical training of the rabbinical schools; in this sense they were unlearned and without any official position among the Jews. But, according to the social rank of their parents, they must have been men of ordinary education, in the common walks of Jewish life. They had frequent opportunity of coming in contact with Greek life and language, which were already widely spread along the shores of the Galilean Sea.

His life and apostolate

The Galilean origin of St. James in some degree explains the energy of temper and the vehemence of character which earned for him and St. John the name of Boanerges, "sons of thunder" (Mark 3:17); the Galilean race was religious, hardy, industrious, brave, and the strongest defender of the Jewish nation.

When John the Baptist proclaimed the kingdom of the Messias, St. John became a disciple (John 1:35); he was directed to "the Lamb of God" and afterwards brought his brother James to the Messias; the obvious meaning of John 1:41, is that St. Andrew finds his brother (St. Peter) first and that afterwards St. John (who does not name himself, according to his habitual and characteristic reserve and silence about himself) finds his brother (St. James). The call of St. James to the discipleship of the Messias is reported in a parallel or identical narration by Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:19 sq.; and Luke 5:1-11. The two sons of Zebedee, as well as Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew with whom they were in partnership (Luke 5:10), were called by the Lord upon the Sea of Galilee, where all four with Zebedee and his hired servants were engaged in their ordinary occupation of fishing. The sons of Zebedee "forthwith left their nets and father, and followed him" (Matthew 4:22), and became "fishers of men".

St. James was afterwards with the other eleven called to the Apostleship (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:13). In all four lists the names of Peter and Andrew, James and John form the first group, a prominent and chosen group (cf. Mark 13:3); especially Peter, James, and John. These three Apostles alone were admitted to be present at the miracle of the raising of Jairus's daughter (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51), at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:1; Matthew 17:1; Luke 9:28), and the Agony in Gethsemani (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33). The fact that the name of James occurs always (except in Luke 8:51; 9:28; Acts 1:13 — Greek Text) before that of his brother seems to imply that James was the elder of the two. It is worthy of notice that James is never mentioned in the Gospel of St. John; this author observes a humble reserve not only with regard to himself, but also about the members of his family.

Several incidents scattered through the Synoptics suggest that James and John had that particular character indicated by the name "Boanerges," sons of thunder, given to them by the Lord (Mark 3:17); they were burning and impetuous in their evangelical zeal and severe in temper. The two brothers showed their fiery temperament against "a certain man casting out devils" in the name of the Christ; John, answering, said: "We [James is probably meant] forbade him, because he followeth not with us" (Luke 9:49). When the Samaritans refused to receive Christ, James and John said: "Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?" (Luke 9:54; cf. 9:49). - The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910

Our Lady of the Pillar - The First Marian Apparition

"Our Lady of the Pillar", a celebrated church and shrine, at Saragossa, Spain, containing a miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin, which is the object of very special devotion throughout the kingdom. The image, which is placed on a marble pillar, whence the name of the church, was crowned in 1905 with a crown designed by the Marquis of Griñi, and valued at 450,000 pesetas (£18,750, 1910). The present spacious church in Baroque style was begun in 1681. According to an ancient Spanish tradition, given in the Roman Breviary (for 12 October, Ad. mat., lect. vi), the original shrine was built by St. James the Apostle at the wish of the Blessed Virgin, who appeared to him as he was praying by the banks of the Ebro at Saragossa. There has been much discussion as the truth of the tradition. Mgr L. Duchesne denies, as did Baronius, the coming of St. James to Spain, and reproduces arguments founded on the writings of the Twelfth Ecumenical Council, discovered by Loaisa, but rejected as spurious by the Jesuit academician Fita and many others. Those who defend the tradition adduce the testimony of St. Jerome (PL XXIV, 373) and that of the Mozarabic Office. The oldest written testimony of devotion to the Blessed Virgin in Saragossa usually quoted is that of Pedro Librana (1155). Fita has published data of two Christian tombs at Saragossa, dating from Roman days, on which the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is represented. - The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911

His martyrdom

On the last journey to Jerusalem, their mother Salome came to the Lord and said to Him: "Say that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left, in thy kingdom" (Matthew 20:21). And the two brothers, still ignorant of the spiritual nature of the Messianic Kingdom, joined with their mother in this eager ambition (Mark 10:37). And on their assertion that they are willing to drink the chalice that He drinks of, and to be baptized with the baptism of His sufferings, Jesus assured them that they will share His sufferings (Mark 10:38-39).

James won the crown of martyrdom fourteen years after this prophecy, A.D. 44. Herod Agrippa I, son of Aristobulus and grandson of Herod the Great, reigned at that time as "king" over a wider dominion than that of his grandfather. His great object was to please the Jews in every way, and he showed great regard for the Mosaic Law and Jewish customs. In pursuance of this policy, on the occasion of the Passover of A.D. 44, he perpetrated cruelties upon the Church, whose rapid growth incensed the Jews.

The zealous temper of James and his leading part in the Jewish Christian communities probably led Agrippa to choose him as the first victim. "He killed James, the brother of John, with the sword." (Acts 12:1-2). According to a tradition, which, as we learn from Eusebius (Church History II.9.2-3), was received from Clement of Alexandria (in the seventh book of his lost "Hypotyposes"), the accuser who led the Apostle to judgment, moved by his confession, became himself a Christian, and they were beheaded together. As Clement testifies expressly that the account was given him "by those who were before him," this tradition has a better foundation than many other traditions and legends respecting the Apostolic labours and death of St. James, which are related in the Latin "Passio Jacobi Majoris", the Ethiopic "Acts of James", and so on.

Santiago Matamoros (St. James the Moor-Slayer)

During the Battle of Clavijo, it is said that Saint James the Great miraculously appeared to provide assistance to an outnumbered Spanish Christian army, helping them gain victory against the Moors who had started their conquest of Hispania in AD 711. The battle is placed between AD 834 and 844, about 800 years after the death of James. According to legend, Saint James, appeared as a warrior on a white horse amidst the Spanish army, wielding a white banner. Upon seeing him, the Christian army cried out “¡Dios ayuda a Santiago!” which translates to “God save St. James!” It is believed that more than 5,000 Moors were killed during the battle, earning James the title Matamoros or “Moor-slayer”.

St. James and Compostela

The tradition asserting that James the Greater preached the Gospel in Spain, and that his body was translated to Compostela, claims more serious consideration.

According to this tradition St. James the Greater, having preached Christianity in Spain, returned to Judea and was put to death by order of Herod; his body was miraculously translated to Iria Flavia in the northwest of Spain, and later to Compostela, which town, especially during the Middle Ages, became one of the most famous places of pilgrimage in the world. The vow of making a pilgrimage to Compostela to honour the sepulchre of St. James is still reserved to the pope, who alone of his own or ordinary right can dispense from it. In the twelfth century was founded the Order of Knights of St. James of Compostela.

A strong argument in favour of the authenticity of the sacred relics of Compostela is the Bull of Leo XIII, "Omnipotens Deus," of 1 November, 1884. - The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910

In Christ Crucified and the Most Victorious Heart of Jesus.

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