Posted by: fvbcdm | July 25, 2014

Feast of Saint James (25 July 2014)

He was a fisherman on the Lake of Galilee. His father’s name was Zebedee; his mother was Salome. He had a brother named John. One day, they met Jesus. And nothing was ever the same after that. He told them that some day they would be catching, not fish, but men. He also told them that they would indeed drink from the cup from which he was to drink. He meant the cup of suffering and martyrdom. This man of whom I speak, James by name, was the first apostle to die for Christ. But before that happened, he accompanied Jesus during Our Lord’s public life, and became one of the trio who seem to have been a sort of inner circle among the twelve apostles. Jesus invited those three—Peter, this James, and his brother John—to be present on at least three occasions that we know of, without the other nine being there. These occasions were the raising of the little daughter of Jairus from the dead, the supreme moment of the transfiguration, and then the terrible moment of Jesus’s agony in the garden of Gethsemani.

The career of this Saint James has been almost as interesting after his death as it was during his life on earth. Ancient traditions tell us that he went to Spain to evangelize that part of the world. And there, according to those ancient traditions, Our Lady appeared to him, giving him a small statue of herself and promising that if he preached devotion to her in that place—the city of Zaragoza—he would succeed in converting the pagan people of Spain to Catholicism. The little statue stands on a small pillar, thus the image is called “Our Lady of the Pillar,” which is Pilar in Spanish. Thus many Spanish women bear the name of Pilar in honor of the Mother of God under that title. Back in the Holy Land, Saint James was killed by King Herod for his faith. Then the traditions resume again, and tell us that his body was somehow transported to a place in northwestern Spain called Compostela (“The Field of the Star”). It became an object of pilgrimages that have continued from those very early days to our own time. You will find in most good bookstores nowadays a very well-edited travel guide tracing the traditional pilgrimage route from Paris down to Compostela. And in most good French restaurants, you will find “coquille saint-Jacques”—Saint James’s shell—a dish of creamed scallops served in a scallop shell. The shell became the symbol of medieval pilgrims on their way to or from Compostela, since they carried with them a shell to act as a drinking cup for water along the way. So today, the Church honors this apostle who was graced to witness Christ in his glory at the transfiguration, and Christ in abject misery during his agony in the garden. Above all, he and the others witnessed the risen Christ, whom they preached to the entire world. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.


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