Saint James the Greater
By Aimee Ross
St. James the Greater and his brother John were with their father, Zebedee, fishing when Jesus called them. This is where James became one of the first disciples and defined his way of life. From that moment on, Jesus was a key aspect of James’s life.
St. James the Greater was referred to as “James the Great” to distinguish him from St. James the Lesser, son of Alphaeus. James’s ambitious personality, pride, confidence, and authority showed that this naming was highly suitable for him. Through James’s strong commitment to Jesus, mission to preach the good news, and unwavering faithfulness, he was named as one of the Twelve Apostles. As one of the first Apostles, Jesus possessed a special respect for James. This brought many extraordinary opportunities for James, but also brought him additional responsibilities. When Jesus went up to Mount Tabor (Mount of Transfiguration) to pray, James was one of the three apostles invited to join him. This was monumental to James, as it was there on the mountain where he witnessed the Transfiguration of Jesus, and he heard the voice of God speak. Jesus also took James to the Garden of Gethsemane, or the Mount of Olives. James, along with Simon Peter and John were the three apostles that Jesus referred to as the “Sons of Thunder” due to their impulsiveness and strong personalities. Jesus expected more of James, encouraging him not only to be a leader, but also to understand the profound significance of Jesus’ teachings.
After the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension, James and the other Apostles preached the Gospel. James was executed by sword in 44AD in Judea at the hand of King Herod Agrippa I. St. James is believed to be the first of the Twelve Apostles to become a martyr for his faith. By his noble death, the other Apostles were given the courage needed to profess their faith and convert people of the world to Christianity.
Religious pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostella, where the remains of St. James the Greater are believed to dwell, were very common during the tenth to fifteenth centuries. Many churches, shrines, and fountains were built honoring St. James the Greater on the roads leading to Santiago. People today continue to visit Santiago de Compostella, with the famous Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. This is often thought to be the third holiest site for modern day Catholics to visit, following Jerusalem and Rome. St. James the Greater is the patron saint of Spain. July 25 is the feast day of St. James the Greater. When this day falls on a Sunday, it is considered to be a “Jubilee” year, in which the number of pilgrims to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela far exceeds other years.
Through St. James the Greater’s personality, he serves as a role model for people in today’s society. St. James had great ambitiousness, often going above and beyond what was expected of him. As the Patron Saint of Laborers, St. James the Greater emphasizes the importance of a strong work ethic. St. James the Greater was also confident. In today’s world, self-confidence and self-assurance can lead to a society where individuals not only have respect for others, but also respect for themselves.
Spiritually, St. James the Greater teaches us that it is sometimes necessary to make sacrifices to lead a holy life. Without question, James left everything to follow Jesus, unsure of where he was being led or what the outcome would be. As one of the first known martyrs of the Catholic religion, St. James the Greater made the ultimate sacrifice. James shows us that although it is not always easy to make the right choices in following what Jesus asks of us, leading the life that Jesus wants us to lead will bring the immeasurable reward of eternal life.
St. James the Greater had a unique relationship with Jesus: a great friendship that was characterized by mutual respect and trust. This friendship is one that everyone should seek, yearning to learn all information possible about Jesus, and to listen to and speak to him, as one would do with a great friend. St. James the Greater learned more and more about Jesus every day of his life. James modeled his life after that of Christ, and would encourage all individuals to do the same.
If St. James the Greater was a member of our society today, it is without doubt that he would serve as a positive example for others. James was an intellectual, a leader, a disciple, and a dependable friend. It is evident that James was a significant role model for those of his time. St. James the Greater would wholeheartedly encourage people of today’s culture to strive to reach their full potential religiously, spiritually, and morally.