st.James the Less, Apostle-One of the Twelve Disciples of Jesus; first bishop of Jerusalem; martyr

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  st.James the Less

Feast Day : May 3 (formerly May 1 and May 11; in the East, November 14)



Patronage: apothecaries; dying people; fullers; hatters; milliners; pharmacists; Uruguay



Also known as: Giacomo; Jacobo; Jacques; Jacobus Minor; James the Younger; James the Just; James the Lesser



James should not be confused with another of Jesus’ disciples, James the Greater, who evidently was of greater physical stature than he. The son of Alpheus and Mary, he was a brother of St. Jude and most likely a first cousin of Jesus. The biblical reference to James as “the brother of our Lord” seems best understood in an extended sense, although some scholars interpret it to mean that James was Jesus’ actual brother. Another interpretation is that there were two men named James, one of them Jesus’ disciple, the other his brother. Jesus called James to the apostolate together with Jude, though we know little about his membership in the group of 12 until after the Crucifixion. In I Corinthians (15:5–7), St. Paul tells us that Jesus appeared to James before the Ascension. James was among those who later met in the Upper Room. St. Peter was treated by Jesus as head of the apostles, and he was the recognized leader of the early Christian community. He was imprisoned under King Herod Agrippa I sometime between 42 and 44, and though he escaped miraculously, was forced to flee Jerusalem, leaving the Church there in James’s care. As bishop of Jerusalem before the Church of Rome gained ascendancy, James was consulted by evangelists such as Paul, who sought his approval on several occasions. He also presided over a meeting of the apostles around the year 51, in which he supported Peter in his attempt to define Christian customs in contrast to Jewish law, as in the controversy over circumcision. This was a Jewish practice, unknown to Gentiles, and James ruled with Peter that Christians should not be held to it. James was called the “Just” because he abstained from wine and animal flesh, refused to shave, anoint himself or bathe in a tub. He died in Jerusalem around the year 62 after being thrown from a pinnacle of the Temple by the Pharisees. He died on the ground below, while praying for his attackers. According to some accounts, he was stoned to death, whereas The Golden Legend says he was killed by the blow of a fuller’s club. Catastrophes that subsequently struck Jerusalem were believed by the Greek historian Eusebius to be a divine punishment for this act. In art, James often bears a close resemblance to Jesus. He is shown with a club or large mallet; holding his epistle, either as a book or scroll; as a child with a toy mill; or as flung from the pulpit or pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem. He especially is known as the patron of the dying because of his deathbed forgiveness of his murderers.

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