Saint Brigid Religious Education
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West Hartford, CT 06110
St. James the Lesser -
Feast day: May 3
St. James the Less, the author of the first Catholic Epistle, was the
son of Alphaeus of Cleophas. His mother Mary was either a sister or a
close relative of the Blessed Virgin, and for that reason, according to
Jewish custom, he was sometimes called the brother of the Lord. The
Apostle held a distinguished position in the early Christian community
of Jerusalem. St. Paul tells us he was a witness of the Resurrection of
Christ; he is also a "pillar" of the Church, whom St. Paul consulted
about the Gospel.
According to tradition, he was the first Bishop of Jerusalem, and was at
the Council of Jerusalem about the year 50. The historians Eusebius and
Hegesippus relayed that St. James was martyred for the Faith by the Jews
in the Spring of the year 62, although they greatly esteemed his person
and had given him the surname of "James the Just."
Tradition has always recognized him as the author of the Epistle that
bears his name. Internal evidence based on the language, style, and
teaching of the Epistle reveals its author as a Jew familiar with the
Old Testament, and a Christian thoroughly grounded in the teachings of
the Gospel. External evidence from the early Fathers and Councils of the
Church confirmed its authenticity and canonicity.
The date of its writing cannot be determined exactly. According to some
scholars it was written about the year 49 A.D. Others, however, claim it
was written after St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (composed during the
winter of 57-58 A.D.). It was probably written between the years 60 and
St. James addresses himself to the "twelve tribes that are in the
Dispersion," that is, to Christians outside Palestine; but nothing in
the Epistle indicates that he is thinking only of Jewish Christians. St.
James realizes full well the temptations and difficulties they encounter
in the midst of paganism, and as a spiritual father, he endeavors to
guide and direct them in the faith. Therefore, the burden of his
discourse is an exhortation to practical Christian living.