Saint Brigid Religious Education
100 Mayflower Street
West Hartford, CT 06110
James the Greater
James the Greater was a Galilean, son of Zebedee and Salome and brother of John
(with whom he was called Sons of Thunder").
was indeed James the Great, high-minded and ambitious, even haughty at times, a
stature and influence, an active apostle. He lived in the
same town of Bethsaida and he practiced his trade as a fisherman near the Sea of
Galilee. James brother also heard the apostolic calling. He was John the
Evangelist, whose symbol is an eagle, whose wings one day were to carry him to
greater heights than James would reach.
James was to stand below in the
just as Andrew did. James had much in common with Andrew, his neighbor and
forerunner in the college of apostles. Yet the two differed considerably in
their characters and manners. James was also a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee,
and had worked on the water with Andrew and Simon Peter for many years. The
Gospels indicate that the two fishermen's families even shared the same boats
and fishing equipment, and managed their affairs together.
year passed before the Lord returned to call James
to follow Him forever. Like the rays of a red sun coming up from the
edge of the sea, the light of the Messiah had already shone upon Simon
and Andrew. It now struck James. In all four
scriptural lists of the apostles they are placed among the first group,
the first four. St. Mark places James in the second place, immediately
after Peter. Throughout the Gospels James is portrayed as a prominent
and distinguished apostle.
Time passed, and nothing happened. James had done
nothing conspicuous or outstanding in the ranks of the apostles. Then
Christ was crucified, and all was over. Before the risen Savior's
manifestation in Galilee, this apostle had returned
to his fishing. There on the sea everything seems to be as it had been
before the Messiah came. Yet something was missing. The Resurrection
gave Jesus back to His apostles, but only for awhile. After the
Ascension, the fearful little group had retreated to an upper room to
await the first Pentecost. Suddenly "fire from heaven" fell upon them,
the true and holy and heavenly fire that purifies. James left his
hide-out with the others and went to the far regions of the world
preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Not much is known of his ministry after the Lord's
resurrection, but it is believed that he lived another 14 years before
It is believed that within this 14 year period, James visited the Jewish
colonist and slaves in Spain to preach the Gospel. It was when he
returned to Jerusalem from Spain that he was captured.
Herod looked upon James as a special capture. It is justifiable to
assume that this Son of Thunder, by his zeal for Christ, had made
himself particularly hateful to the Jews. They wanted to dispose of him
more than of any other. James the apostle was enemy number one. What a
vast amount of seed James had sown for Christ! And now, before he had
time to reap harvest, before he had time to taste of the sweet cup, he
was struck down by the blow of a criminal. It was around Easter time in
the year 42. The mission of James was completed in his martyrdom for
Christ, and immediately he received his reward. But Peter and the other
apostles still had a whole world to win.
By this noble
death the apostle James became "the Great" and "the First." He died
before the first council of the apostles in 49 A.D, was not conducive to
the development of legends concerning him. In the year 1082 a stately
building was begun over what was believed to be the grace of this
apostle martyr. Santiago de Compostella must be classed with Jerusalem
and Rome as one of the three great attractions today for tourists on
pilgrimage. From the tenth to the fifteenth centuries pilgrimages to the
grave of James were world-famous. James the Elder was at one time the
most popular of all the apostles, today he is the patron of Spain and
the patron of pilgrims.
St. James the Great's feast day is on July 25.