Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?

Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."

To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."

As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."

Prayer Requests: July & August

Posted by Jacob

As many of you know, I recently returned from Guatemala (see the lovely Mayan Crucifix, left), where I had the privilege of meeting some incredible families, blessed by the Lord in faith, hope, love, and enduring spirit!  I will be writing more about that trip soon.  In the meantime, I have been trying to "catch up," which has been difficult, so I apologize for the lack of recent posts.

Please join me in praying for the intentions submitted by readers over the past several weeks.  I had over 100 requests awaiting me upon my return!  Together, as a prayer community, we can accomplish great things!

Prayer Requests: July and August

During this month, please join me in lifting the following intentions  submitted through this blog, to Our Lord and Savior, through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother:

Healing for a cancer survivor, financial security, protection of children (C, USA-VA); Financial support for a struggling school (P, India); Successful employment (N, Trinidad & Tobago); Blessings upon a family, freedom from sin (R, USA-CT); For specific intentions of hope and healing (A, Philippines); Reconciliation of relationship between granddaughter and mother (C, USA-NY); Successful employment (A, India); Healing of a mother post-surgery (L, USA-PA); Hearts of hope and faith (N, Switzerland); Repose of soul of husband, financial security (R, USA-CA); Success in job and business (B, Ireland); Healing of a mother and the ill (R, Philippines); Blessed custody arrangement, family harmony (I, USA-CA); Blessings upon a family, healing, hope (S, USA-NJ); For Catholic parishioners in Lesotho (T, Lesotho); Healing, strength, confidence for a daughter (J, Australia); Financial security, health and safety (M, Philippines); Employment and financial security (C, Nigeria); Healing, children blessed by God (M, Lesotho); Successful studies and employment for daughter, freedom from anxiety and worries (M&C, United Kingdom); Successful employment, financial security (R, Cameroon); Freedom from mental illness and anxiety, marriage blessed by God (M, Denmark); Blessings upon a Catholic school (K, USA-MT); Healing of a wife’s eyesight (R, USA-NV); For healing (R, USA-MD); Successful employment, financial security (K, South Africa); Successful employment, financial security (I, USA-FL); Financial security and health for a family (D, USA-PA); Blessings upon a marriage, financial security (N, USA-MI); Conversion of a husband (B, United Kingdom); Successful employment, financial security (J, USA-NY); Blessings of children (M, USA-CT); Healing of a brain tumor (J, United Kingdom); End to family distress (I, India); Blessings upon a family (S, USA-TX); Financial security (D, India); Employment of husband (B, United Kingdom); Healing of arthritis and diabetes (I, Zimbabwe); Safety and protection of a son (M, USA-VT); Blessings and guidance (E, USA-NY); Successful employment, financial security (G, USA-OR); Health, blessings, and financial security (M, USA-CA); Healing and discernment (M, USA-TX); Peace and reconciliation of family, discernment in vocation (G, Uganda); Freedom from addiction (F, Australia); Healing of a relationship with mother (L, India); Blessings upon a parish family (A, USA-FL); Successful local employment (K, Ireland); Blessings upon a family (J, Brazil); The Lord’s mercy upon a father (J, USA-NY); Financial security, successful business (R, India); Healing of many, financial security (D, United Kingdom); For a family to heed the Lord’s will (B, USA-MA); Successful employment, financial security (R, USA-LA); Healing and comfort (M, India); Location of lost important items (J, Philippines); Relationship blessed by God (M, Philippines); Healing on a family, deeper relationship with Christ (G, Philippines); Freedom from addiction, healing, blessings upon a relationship (T, USA-CO); Repose of souls (M, USA-NJ); Blessings and healing upon children (S, USA-NY); Blessings and healing for a family (B, France); Successful studies and examinations (A, Philippines); Healing for a family (A, Philippines); Healing of a family, healing of the mentally ill (B, USA-MA); Relationship blessed by God (C, Philippines); Successful sale of home (T, Canada); Blessings upon a family (L, Nigeria); Relationship blessed by the Lord (M, India); Successful fundraising for academics, health of aging parents (E, Kenya); Deepening relationship with God, blessings and conversion for children and grandchildren (P, USA-CA); Healing, protection, guidance, security for a family (J, Nepal); Blessings upon a family, employment, children (C, United Arab Emirates); Blessings and a positive attitude (A, Qatar); Discernment regarding religious life (M, Ghana); Healing from cancer, blessings upon a relationship (O, Ireland); Successful academic studies (J, England); Financial security, healing and guidance (P, Uganda); Healing and an end to addiction (D, India); Blessings from God on relationships, healing, strength (R, USA-NJ); Reconciliation of a relationship (L, India); Success in occupational and academic pursuits (C, Philippines); Resolution of legal difficulties (R, India).

July 28, 2013: Saint Pantaleon the Healer, Patron Saint of Physicians

Posted by Jacob

Today, July 28, we celebrate the feast day of Saint Pantaleon the Healer (also known as Saint Panteleimon, died 303), physician, confessor, and martyr for the faith. While serving as physician to the Emperor Maximianus, Saint Pantaleon lived his faith loudly, despite persecution of Christians, and through his witness and charity to the poor and enslaved, earned the martyrs’ crown. He is considered a contemporary to Saints Cosmas and Damian, also Christian physicians who suffered for their faith. Saint Pantaleon, whose name means the “all-compassionate one,” is the patron saint of physicians.

Pantaleon was born. in the city of Nicodemia (currently called Izmit, in northern Turkey near the Black Sea). His mother, Eubula, was a devout Christian who raised her son in the Christian way of life, while his father, Eustorgius, did not convert until much later. Sadly, Eubula passed away while Pantaleon was still quite young. While he had been exposed to Christianity, Pantaleon did not fully practice as a young man. Handsome, polite, and humble, he radiated happiness and peace to all he encountered, but was drawn to worldly pursuits. His father sent him to study under a famous physician, and eventually was appointed the royal physician to the court of Emperor Maximian.

While at the royal court, Pantaleon fell further from the faith, deceived by hearing the false maxims of the world applauded. It was then that the Lord sent a model of the faith, a zealous and prudent Christian named Hermolaus, to Pantaleon, to serve as advisor and friend. Hermolaus took special notice of the young physician and awakened his conscience, telling him that although the famous physicians of ancient times had possessed the science which cures bodies, Jesus Christ was a far more excellent Physician, able to cure not only bodies, but souls, by His divine doctrine. Through continued discussion and counsel, Pantaleon came to accept Christ into his heart.

Soon thereafter, Pantaleon experienced a miraculous healing, saving a child from certain death after being bitten by a viper. Needing no further proof of the power of the Lord, he was baptized into the faith, and undertook a rigorous course of study on the Sacraments of the Church, Holy Communion, and the teachings and practices of the faithful. Through his faith, he subsequently cured a man of blindness, which led him to the faith. Similarly, his father, hearing of his son’s healings, converted, receiving Christ into his heart.

When Eustorgus, his father, died, Saint Pantaleon liberated all his slaves on the family estate, and, having sold most of his possessions, gave to the liberated ones and others the assistance their poverty required. He cured other illnesses and soon became renowned in Nicodemia, attracting the attention of competing physicians. They wished to betray him to the Emperor, who was actively persecuting Christians.

Pantaleon was ordered to appear before the Emperor, who described the charges against him. The emperor had grown to like and trust Pantaleon, and attempted to save him by offering him the chance to make sacrifice to the pagan Roman gods. Of course, Pantaleon refused, and it was ordered that he be tortured and killed. After multiple attempts to kill him—which he miraculously survived—Saint Pantaleon was beheaded.

The body of Saint Pantaleon was anointed with myrrh and buried outside of the city. His remains, or a portion of them, were later translated to Constantinople, where they are venerated today. It is said that his blood, conserved in a small vial, liquefies on his feast day, becoming oxygenated. Some of his relics, including his head, were later again translated to France by Charlemagne, and reside in the abbey of Saint Denys near Paris and in Lyons.

Prayer of the Sick to Saint Pantaleon

Saint Pantaleon, you know that it is hard to be ill without hope to get well again. Sometimes it is even more difficult to see someone suffer whom we love and whom we cannot help. Pray for the doctors in whom we trust. Give them wisdom and patience for the right way of treatment.

You emulated God's mercy, and He granted you the power of healing, o Pantaleon, victorious martyr of Christ. Heal our spiritual diseases through your intercession, and as we constantly cry out to the Lord, 'Save us!' take away the temptations which the enemy always places before our steps. Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that by the prayers of thy holy Martyr blessed Pantaleon, we may be delivered from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul.

July 27, 2013: The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus

Posted by Jacob

Today, July 27, we celebrate the feast day of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus-- Saints Maximian, Malchus, Martinian, Dionysius, John, Serapion, and Constantine—martyrs for the faith. As recorded in the Golden Legend, the story of the Seven Sleepers is one where good men fall asleep, only to wake up to a world changed for the better. Akin to the resurrection of the body, which we shall all experience on earth, the story of the seven sleepers is a foretaste of the glory of the Risen Christ. The Church’s martyrology describes the feast as the "Commemoration of the seven Holy Sleeper of Ephesus, who, it is recounted, after undergoing martyrdom, rest in peace, awaiting the day of resurrection."

It was during the time of Christian persecution that our story unfolds. Emperor Decius (249-251) traveled to the town of Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey) to enforce his laws against Christians. In Ephesus, Decius found seven noble young men (depicted in art as beardless, and often in legend referred to as “boys”), named Maximian, Malchus, Martinian, Dionysius, John, Serapion, and Constantine. Each of these young noblemen had proclaimed the Christian faith, being baptized into it. Following a brief trial, Decius sentenced them to death, but gave them some time to consider changing their faiths. He declared that should they still be Christian upon his return to the town, they would be executed.

Following his departure, the young men held firm in their faith. They gave their property to the poor, and taking only a few coins with them traveled to a cave on Mount Anchilos to pray and prepare for death. There they lived in hermitude, contemplation, and holy prayer until the emperor returned to Ephesus. Upon his return, he asked their whereabouts, and upon his approach to their cave, the martyrs said their last prayer, giving themselves up, and falling asleep. Decius told his soldiers to find them, and when they were found asleep in the cave, he ordered it to be closed up with huge stones and sealed. Buried alive, and deprived of food and water, the seven became martyrs for the faith. Shortly thereafter, local Christians visited the sealed entrance to the cave, and wrote the names of the seven and their story on the cave wall for all to see. Their sacrifice became a living witness to the Christian faith.

Two centuries later, during the reign of Emperor Theodosius the Younger (408-450), persecution of Christians had ceased in Europe. In fact, Christianity was now the official faith of the empire. In is during this time that some heretics denied the resurrection of the body. While this controversy went on, a rich landowner named Adolios had the Sleepers' cave opened, to use it as a cattle-stall. The seven youth awoke from their sleep, unaware that almost two hundred years had passed. Their bodies and clothing were completely undecayed. They discovered they were preserved when one went into the city to buy bread and heard the name of Jesus spoken freely, presenting an outdated coin with the image of Decius to buy bread. Bewildered he was taken to the Bishop of Ephesus who eventually spoke to all seven youths and discovered that God allowed this miracle to end the dispute concerning the resurrection of the dead. The Emperor also went to Ephesus to examine this miracle and after speaking with them they were allowed to go back into their cave without the royal honors the Emperor wanted to lavish on them, and there they fell asleep permanently. Overall it has been determined that the holy youths fell asleep in the cave in 250 and awoke in 434, which means that they slept for 184 years. Each year, their feast is celebrated in the cathedral built atop the cave. The cave in which their bodies were found became a place famous for devout pilgrimages, and is still shown to travelers.

The lives of the Seven Sleepers marks a true historical event. While the length of their sleep, and the eventual resurrection of their bodies is difficult to confirm, archeological remains indicate that seven young men were buried in the cave in question in Turkey—the tombs and relics remain, dated from the time period in which the miracles were said to have occurred. The lives of the Seven Sleepers are recorded in numerous sources, including the Koran.

The Seven Sleepers give us hope and confidence in the Lord. Whether historically accurate, or a more mystical metaphor for the joy of the resurrection, we look forward to the moment when our sleeping selves awaken to grace, and purified, and then rest in the Lord for all eternity!

From the Lives of the Seven Sleepers (as recorded in the Golden Legend):

And as soon as the blessed saints of our Lord saw the emperor come, their visages shone like to the sun. And the emperor entered then, and glorified our Lord and embraced them, weeping upon each of them, and said: I see you now like as I should see our Lord raising Lazarus. And then Maximian said to him: Believe us, for forsooth our Lord hath raised us tofore the day of the great resurrection. And to the end that thou believe firmly the resurrection of the dead people, verily we be raised as ye here see, and live. And in like wise as the child is in the womb of his mother without feeling harm or hurt, in the same wise we have been living and sleeping in Lying here without feeling of anything. And when they had said all this, they inclined their heads to the earth, and rendered their spirits at the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so died. Then the emperor arose, and fell on them, weeping strongly, and embraced them, and kissed them debonairly. And then he commanded to make precious sepulchers of gold and silver, and to bury their bodies therein. And in the same night they appeared to the emperor, and said to him that he should suffer them to lie on the earth like as they bad lain tofore till that time that our Lord had raised them, unto the time that they should rise again. Then commanded the emperor that the place should be adorned nobly and richly with precious stones, and all the bishops that would confess the resurrection should be assoiled. It is in doubt of that which is said that they slept three hundred and sixty-two years, for they were raised the year of our Lord four hundred and seventy-eight, and Decius reigned but one year and three months, and that was in the year of our Lord two hundred and seventy, and so they slept but two hundred and eight years.

July 26, 2013: Feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, Parents of Our Blessed Mother, Grandparents of Jesus

Posted by Jacob

Mother Anne, be joyful;
sing, O mother holy,
Since thou art the parent
O God's Mother lowly.

Praise thy wondrous daughter;
Joachim, too raises
To the Virgin Mary
His paternal praises.

For in her our planet
First hath benediction
Which hapless Eva
Suffered malediction.

Therefore take the praises
Joyous hearts are paying;
And from all defilement
Cleanse us by thy praying.

Father, Son eternal,
Holy Ghost supernal,
With one praise we bless Thee,
Three in One confess Thee. Amen.

Today, July 26, we celebrate the feast day of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, parents of Our Blessed Mother, and grandparents to Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. By tradition Joachim and Anne are considered to be the names of the parents of Mary, although as they are not mentioned in the Scriptures, some historians believe this to be legend. The apocryphal Protoevangelium of James (written in the second century) describes the life of Saints Anne and Joachim, as well as the circumstances of the conception of the Blessed Virgin. While some disagree on whether these facts are historically accurate, whatever their names or the facts of their lives, the truth is that it was the parents of Mary who nurtured her, taught her, and brought her up to be a worthy Mother of God. It was their teaching that led her to respond to God's request with faith, acclaiming her fiat: "Let it be done to me as you will." It was their example of parenting that Mary must have followed as she brought up her own son, Our Lord and Savior.

Both Joachim and Anne were form the royal lineage of David, and we are led to believe that their lives were wholly occupied in prayer and good works. Joachim (whose name means “Yahweh prepares”) was recognized as a prominent and respected man in the community around Galilee (they later moved to Jerusalem, where Mary was raised). We know that they assiduously divided their income into three parts—one third supporting the poor, one third supporting the temple, and one third supporting the running of their household. Their marriage, per Saint Ignatius, was one of perfect simplicity—a model of behavior for all individuals in their approach to union with the Lord. The only thing lacking, per Jewish custom, was a child.

According to the Protoevangelium of James, Anne (whose name means “Grace”), wife of Joachim, was advanced in years and that her prayers for a child had not been answered. Once as she prayed beneath a laurel tree near her home in Galilee, an angel appeared and said to her, "Anne, the Lord hath heard thy prayer and thou shalt conceive and bring forth, and thy seed shall be spoken of in all the world." Anne replied, "As the Lord my God liveth, if I beget either male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God; and it shall minister to Him in holy things all the days of its life.” And thus Anne was to become the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

According to the Chelidonius, a Benedictine monk from the 15th century: "Overjoyed Anne threw herself into the arms of her husband; together they rejoiced about the honor that was to be granted them in the form of a child. For they knew from the heavenly messenger that the child would be a Queen, powerful on heaven and on earth.”

At length, when Anne was quite old, Mary was born, the fruit of grace and nature, and a child more of God than of man. Conceived and born without sin, Mary was unlike any other child, and it was her parents that raised her to be faithful to God’s word and remain free of sin. With the birth of Mary, Saint Anne began life anew, caring for her with maternal and reverent tenderness, sanctified by the presence of the immaculate child. True to her word, she vowed her daughter to the Lord.

As a child, tradition tells us that Mary was taken to the temple, where she was offered to God. Saints Joachim and Anne suffered great sorrow, but at the same time, experienced great joy for fulfilling the vows they had made to the Lord. As a young girl, Mary spent time in service to the Temple, working and learning with other girls. It is likely, however, that her parents taught her to read, and certainly Joachim and Anne who taught her to love and follow God’s word and to know and understand the Scriptures

Saint John Damascene wrote this of the holy grandparents of Jesus:

Joachim and Anne, how blessed a couple! All creation is indebted to you. For at your hands the Creator was offered a gift excelling all other gifts: a chaste mother, who alone was worthy of him.

Joachim and Anne, how blessed and spotless a couple! You will be known by the fruit you have borne, as the Lord says: "By their fruits you will know them." The conduct of your life pleased God and was worthy of your daughter. For by the chaste and holy life you led together, you have fashioned a jewel of virginity: she who remained a virgin before, during, and after giving birth. She along for all time would maintain her virginity in mind and soul as well as in body.

Joachim and Anne, how chaste a couple! While leading a devout and holy life in your human nature, you gave birth to a daughter nobler than the angels, whose queen she now is!

The lives of Saints Joachim and Anne remain shrouded in mystery, lost to history. While we might not know the exact circumstances of their lives, what we do know is left in the legacy of their daughter, Mary—the woman entrusted by God the Father to become the Mother of God. We can believe, therefore, that the parents who nurtured, taught, and raised Mary filled her with the faith and love of God required for such a monumental task. It was their teaching that led to her fiat. It was their example of parenting that Mary must have followed as she brought up her own son, Jesus. It was their faith that laid the foundation of courage and strength that allowed her to stand by the cross as her son was crucified and still believe.


Great and glorious patriarch, St Joachim, and good St Anne, what joy is mine when I consider that you were chosen among all God’s holy ones to assist in the fulfillment of the mysteries of God, and to enrich our earth with the great Mother of God, Mary most holy. By this singular privilege, you have become most powerful with both the Mother and her Son, so as to be able to obtain for us the graces that are needful to us.

With great confidence I have recourse to your mighty protection, and I commend to you all my needs, both spiritual and temporal, and those of my family. Especially do I entrust to your keeping the particular favor that I desire and look for from your intercession.

And since you were a perfect pattern of the interior life, obtain for me the grace to pray earnestly, and never to set m heart on the passing goods of this life. Give me a lively and enduring love for Jesus and Mary. Obtain for me also a sincere devotion and obedience to Holy church and the sovereign pontiff who rules over her, in order that I may live an die in faith and hope and perfect charity. Let me ever invoke the holy Names of Jesus and Mary. And may I thus be saved. Amen.

July 25, 2013: Saint James the Greater, "Son of Thunder"

Posted by Jacob

Today, July 25, we celebrate the feast day of Saint James the Greater (died 44), Disciple and friend of Christ, “Son of Thunder,” and first martyr of the Church. Impetuous and quick to temper, James was also a faithful companion to Our Lord, present at significant moments in His life. A gifted preacher, following the death of Jesus, James spent the days until his martyrdom in Spain, establishing the still-popular pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela. According to Saint Epiphanus and other historians, he also conserved his virginity in consecration to the Lord. He is honored as the patron of Spain, equestrians, blacksmiths, tanners, veterinarians, and many other locales and professions.

(For “James the Greater,” General Audience delivered by Pope Benedict XVI, June 21, 2006, visit here.)

Saint James was the son of Zebedee, a Galilean fisherman, and Salome, a pious woman who tended after Christ. He and his younger brother, Saint John, were called as disciples just after Simon Peter and Andrew were called.

19When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. (Mark 1: 19-20)

Saint James, along with Peter and John, are often mentioned together in Scripture, as the closest companions of Jesus. They were present at the healing of Peter’s mother in law:

29As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. 31So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. (Mark 1:29)

… and the raising of Jairus’ daughter:

51When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child's father and mother. 52Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. "Stop wailing," Jesus said. "She is not dead but asleep."
53They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But he took her by the hand and said, "My child, get up!" 55Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened. (Luke 8: 51-56)

Saint James, Peter, and John were present at the Transfiguration of Our Lord:

2After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." 6(He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
7Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!"
8Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. (Mark 9:2-8)

… and the Lord’s Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane:

36Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." 37He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."

39Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
40Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. 41"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."

42He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."

43When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!" (Matthew 26: 36-46)

Earning their nickname “Sons of Thunder,” James and his brother John are recorded as wishing to reign down fire from heaven on a Samaritan village which refused them hospitality:

51As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" 55But Jesus turned and rebuked them, 56and they went to another village. (Luke 9: 51-56)

Perhaps James is remembered most for the conversation his mother, Salome, had with Jesus, requesting that her two sons be placed at His right and left-- not realizing the crucifixion and death that lie in store for Christ, but rather imagining an earthly kingdom and throne:

20Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

21"What is it you want?" he asked.
She said, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom."
22"You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said to them. "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?"
"We can," they answered.
23Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father."
24When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20: 20-28)

Following the death of Christ, James was present in the Upper Room, and on more than one recorded appearance of the Resurrected Jesus. From the time of Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven, there is little recorded history of James’ missionary activity until that of his martyrdom. Biblical scholars suggest that he probably traveled between Judea and Samaria, and tradition speaks of his journey to Spain, where later his mortal remains were received.

Saint James was the first of the apostles to suffer martyrdom, in Jerusalem, in approximately 44. After nine years preaching in Spain, he had returned to Jerusalem, and was brought before King Herod Agrippa. The Apostle had been preaching fearlessly there, curing the sick and the blind, and delivering possessed persons. Herod promptly sentenced James to execution, reported sparsely by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles: “About that time Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the Church, and he killed James, the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12, 1-2). As Clement of Alexandria, James died by beheading after having converting his accuser: “He who had brought him to the tribunal was so moved seeing him give testimony that he also confessed to being a Christian himself.”

Tradition holds that following his martyrdom in Jerusalem, his followers are believed to have carried his body down the coast and placed it in a stone boat—which was carried by angels to the northern coast of Spain. There, his remains were buried, and promptly forgotten about until the ninth century, when a hermit was led by heavenly vision to the spot. The tomb was rediscovered, and the relics authenticated. From that time, the spot-- Santiago (Iago translating as James) de Compostela—became a center of miracle and pilgrimage-- so much so that Compostela became the third greatest place of pilgrimage, just after Jerusalem and Rome. Today, pilgrims continue to flock to Compostelo, taking one of the many routes known as the “Camino." Pilgrims attach cockleshells—the symbol of Saint James-- or their facsimile to their hats or clothes as "pilgrim badges," signs that they'd venerated the holy relics of the great saint.

(For a recipe for Coquilles St. Jacques à la Provençale, traditionally eaten on the feast of Saint James, see here.)

Saint James is also recognized as having appeared in corporeal form, during the Spanish defense of their land and Christianity from the invading Moors. The saint is said to have appeared on a white horse at the Battle of Clavijo, adorned in cockle shells, in 844, while the Christians were in retreat before the onslaught of the Arab and Berber invaders. Thanks to James’ miraculous appearance, the Moors were defeated. The rallying cry of the Spanish troops, from that time, became “Santiago!”

Saint James the Greater is recognized for his special place within the Disciples of Christ-- having been selected by Our Lord because of his burning, impetuous, and outspoken faith. Through his interaction with Jesus, these qualities were purified, and the former “Son of Thunder” could then proclaim the Gospel of peace. We could all benefit from the same purification, the conversion of our anger, temper, and frustration to righteous instruments of peace and Christian virtue. We look to Saint James today, for inspiration and intercession, that we might better embody the peaceful message of Jesus Christ.

Almighty Father,
by the martyrdom of Saint James you blessed the work of the early Church.
May his profession of faith give us courage and his prayers bring us strength.
Grant, O merciful God, that as thine holy Apostle Saint James, leaving his father and all that he had, without delay was obedient unto the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him; so we, forsaking all worldly and carnal affections, may be evermore ready to follow thy holy commandments; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.