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Saint James the Greater

Saint James the Greater
  • Century: 1st Century
  • Patronage: Veterinarians, Tanners, Pharmacists, Equestrians
  • Feast Day: July 25th

St. James was the son of Zebedee, and was one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus.  He was a son of Zebedee and Salome, and his brother John was also an Apostle.  He is sometimes called James the Greater to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus, who is also known as James the Lesser. 

James is described as the first disciple to join Jesus.  In Matt. 4:21-22, we learn that James and John were there with their Father by the seashore when Jesus called them to follow him.  James was one of only three Apostles whom Jesus chose to bear witness to his Transfiguration.  

James and his brother John wanted to call down fire on a Samaritan town, but were rebuked by Jesus in LK 9:51-6.  We also know that in the Acts of the Apostles 12:1 that Herod had James executed by sword.  He is the only Apostle whose martyrdom is recorded in the New Testament.  That is the reason he is believed to be the first Martyr for his faith, Acts 12:1-2.  He was martyred just 11 years after the Crucifixion of Jesus.  

St. James is believed to have a fiery temper, and that is the reason he and his brother John earned the nickname “Sons of Thunder”.   Also according to local tradition, on January 2nd of the year 40 AD, the Virgin Mary appeared to James on the bank of the Ebro River at Caesaraugusta, while he was preaching the Gospel in Iberia.  She appeared upon a pillar, Nuestra Senora del Pilar, and that pillar is conserved and venerated with the present Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, in Zaragoza, Spain.  Following that apparition, St. James returned to Judea, where King Herod Agrippa I, beheaded him, in the year 44.  His body was carried by his disciples by sea to Iberia, where they landed at Paron, on the coast of Galicia, and took it inland for burial at Santiago de Compostela.  

Many miracles have been related to St. James in Spain, around his burrial site.  The authenticity of the relics at Compostela was asserted in the Bill of Pope Leo XIII, “Omnipotens Deus”, on November 1, 1884.   

Practical Take Away 

St. James the Greater was the first Apostle to be martyred for his faith.  He willingly dropped everything at the seashore to follow Jesus as his first Apostle.  He knew that Jesus was the Son of God, and knowingly walked with Jesus.  He also knew that after the crucifixion he could be martyred for the faith, but never let that possibility stop him.  He is a saint that should be first and foremost on the mind of all those that are spreading the Gospel today.  His intercession can bring us the strength needed to persevere.