Saint Brigid Religious Education
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James the The Lesser

The apostle James (the son of Alphaeus), who is also called "Less" or "Younger," was a brother of the apostle Matthew and the son of Mary. He was called called "Less" because he was younger in age than James the Greater.

Many have become accustomed to calling all of the apostles simply "the poor fishermen of Galilee. " But actually the group around Christ was comprised of men not only of many very different temperaments and personalities, but also of various professions. They came from different social circles. Some were rich; some were poor. With the calling of this third group of apostles, tillers of the soil also were given a voice in changing the whole world. James, Jude Thaddeus, and Simon were farmers.

James the Less is comparable to a late-rising star which begins to shine only after the other stars fade beyond the horizon. In the Gospels, in the first ten years of the history of the apostles, almost nothing was heard of James. But after the martyrdom of James the Elder in the year 42, and after Peter left Jerusalem, he suddenly came into the light of history. Peter, in the exciting night of his miraculous escape from prison, went to the house of Mark and left the instruction, "Tell this to James." This special emphasis on James already pointed to his prominent position in the Mother Church at Jerusalem. St. Paul also named him as a "pillar" of the Church. James the Less was firmly fixed in the ninth place on the list of apostles.

James was the first bishop of Jerusalem, a fact which is clearly evident throughout the Acts of the Apostles. As bishop of Jerusalem, James the Less had a sorrowful office to fulfill. After the death of Festus, the governor of the province, there was no official representative in the land. Then the fanatical high priest, Ananus II, took advantage of this vacancy to destroy James. He demanded from James that he mount the pinnacle of the temple,during the Easter season and make it clear to the people that Jesus was really not the Messiah. Seemingly James consented. But when he reached the top of the temple, he preached before all the people that Jesus was the Messiah, the Judge of the world. The Jewish leader, humiliated and enraged, immediately had James thrown down from the roof of the temple, and had his half-dead body stoned. James, as Stephen, prayed for his executioners. This was in the year 61 or 62, about thirty years after the Ascension. James was then ninety-six years old.

St. James the Less feast day is May 3.


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