Posted by: fvbcdm | July 26, 2012

Feast of Saint James (25 July 2012)

Most of us have heard of the town of Compostela in northwestern Spain, and probably know that for centuries, pilgrims have gone there at all times of the year, but especially on July 25.  The reason is that the body of Saint James Major, one of the twelve apostles of Our Lord, is thought to be enshrined there.  The Spanish form of his name is Santiago; thus we get the title “Santiago de Compostela” for the man and for his principal shrine there in Spain.  It has become traditional for great crowds of devout pilgrims to begin their journey in Paris, in north central France, and then to make their way down through France, across the Pyrenees, and on to Compostela.  And recently, a new interest in that pilgrimage has sprung up.  If you look in most bookstores, you can find excellent travel guides giving all sorts of details on the famous road from Paris to Compostela.  One that I’ve enjoyed looking through is full of pictures of ancient roads, bridges, inns, churches, and streams which the pilgrims have used for centuries to help them on their way.  

Every year, the Church celebrates the feast of Saint James Major, or Santiago, on July 25. But when that feast falls on a Sunday, it becomes a holy year in Compostela and the celebrations are even greater and attract more pilgrims.  And who was this Saint James Major?  He was one of two brothers who were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee.  Their father’s name was Zebedee; their mother was Salome.  They were James and John; both were chosen by Our Lord to be his disciples and apostles.  On several occasions, Our Lord chose them out of the others to witness a special moment in his life. He brought them with him into the house of Jairus to see him raise the little daughter of Jairus from the dead.  He brought them up to the top of the high mountain to witness his transfiguration.  And he brought them deeper into the Garden of Gethsemani with him on the night before he died to see his terrible agony there.  And this Saint James Major (so called because he was older than the other apostle named James) had the distinction of being the first to have been martyred for his faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ.  In the middle ages, travelers often carried a scallop shell with them so that they could scoop up water to drink when they found a source of clean, fresh water.  Thus, the shell has become a symbol of pilgrimage, and especially of the Compostela pilgrimage.  There is even a dish made of scallops which is called, in French, “coquille Saint-Jacques.”  The shell of Saint James.  So we find sacred history and pious tradition even on the menus of many of our better restaurants!   Saint James Major was a close friend of Our Lord.  Let us ask him to help us become more devoted to Jesus as he was.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

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