Who Is St. James the Greater?
According to the Catholic Church, James is one of a three-man privileged inner circle of Jesus’s Apostles, joining St. Peter and St. John the Evangelist. These three were allowed to witness miracles that the other Apostles only heard about. James witnessed the cure of Peter’s mother-in-law and the raising of Jarius’s daughter from the dead, among other miracles.
Galilee (first century a.d.–a.d. 44)
Patron: Spain, arthritis, hat makers
Feast day: July 25
James the Greater was the brother of St. John the Evangelist and one of Zebedee’s sons. (Two Apostles are named James; this one is known as “the Greater” because he was the older of the two.) Like Peter and Andrew, James earned his living as a fisherman. He and his brother, John, were called by the Lord at the same time he called Peter and Andrew.
Peter, John, and James were the fortunate witnesses to Jesus’s Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. This event was most important, for the Lord dazzled the Apostles with his divinity right before his pending passion. As members of the inner circle, their testimony and faithfulness would be needed after the Lord’s crucifixion.
Pious tradition holds that, after the Ascension of the Lord, James brought the message of Jesus to Spain and evangelized that country. In fact, there’s a magnificent basilica of Santiago (Spanish and Portuguese for St. James) in Compostela, in Spain’s northwest corner. Compostela lies at the center of the most famous pilgrimage trails throughout all of Europe; since the early Middle Ages, pilgrims have traveled roads from Rome, France, and Spain to this shrine, where relics of St. James are believed to lie in repose. (Other relics of the saint are housed in Rome.)
As he was led outside Jerusalem for martyrdom, James walked by a man crippled with arthritis, who begged James for a cure. James prayed over him and commanded him to stand up, and the man was miraculously cured. Today, despite all the advances in medicine, arthritis has no cure. Those suffering from it may seek relief through prayers to James the Greater.