Feast of St. James the Apostle

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St. James

One of the great Christian pilgrimages is the journey to Compostela, a town in Spain where the most famous and most revered site to James the Apostle, Santiago de Compostela, is built.  In Spain, James is called Santiago, and the tradition tells us that James left Jerusalem to preach in Spain.

St. James' attribute

Because he was a fisherman, his attribute, and the sign of the pilgrim, is a scallop shell. At some point James left Spain and returned to Jerusalem. He died a martyr there around 44 A.D.  You can read the story of his martyrdom in Acts, chapter 12.  He is believed to be the first of the apostles to die, killed with a sword by the order of King Herod Agrippa. Scripture tells us James was a fisherman, the brother of John and the son of Zebedee.  They were among the first four disciples Jesus called. (Matthew 4: 18-22; Mark 1: 16-20; Luke 5: 1- 11) It seems that James and his brother, John, were close to Jesus. Scripture has them as witnesses to the cure of Peter’s mother-in-law (Matthew 8: 14-15; Mark 1: 29-31; Luke 4: 38-39) and the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9: 18-26; Mark 5: 21-43; Luke 8: 40 -56.)  James was present at the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17: 1-9; Mark 9: 2-10; Luke 9: 28-36) and was in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested (Matthew 26; 37; Mark 32: 33.)

He died a martyr there around 44 A.D.  You can read the story of his martyrdom in Acts, chapter 12.

An example of their closeness may be found in the nickname Jesus gave to James and his brother, John.  He called them “The Sons of Thunder,” perhaps because they called on him to send lightning down on a town inhospitable to Jesus and his disciples (Luke 9:54.)  In the story, Jesus rebuked them, but he did not send them away or turn from them.  He loved them, and they him. Both James and John would die in the service of Christ.  James would be the first to die and John the last.  Alone of all the apostles, John died of old age.  United in service to Christ, the brothers were reunited in death by the end of the first century.