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The sound of Alleluias fills the 50 days of Easter Sunday to Pentecost as we give thanks for the gift of our salvation. The Easter Triduum recalls the passion and resurrection of Christ in the sacred journey from Holy Thursday to Easter Vigil. "Dying he destroyed our death. Rising he restored our life."
James, Apostle and Martyr, died c. 62
This Saint James is called “the Less” or “the Younger” to distinguish him from the other apostle named James. He has also been called “James the Just” in recognition of the respect in which he was held by the Christians of his time.
A number of things can be inferred from the references to James in the gospels, together with tradition and what has been passed on in the writing of others. (Many Church historians believe that there was a third James who was prominent in the Church in first century Jerusalem and some of what follows might be attributed to this other James.) James was the son of Alphaeus. St. Paul tells us that Jesus made a special appearance to James prior to the Ascension. The other apostles were still suspicious of Paul when, three years after his conversion, he visited Jerusalem. But James, along with Peter, gave Paul a cordial welcome.
James was recognized by Peter as one whose pre-eminence was acknowledged by the Christians of Jerusalem. Indeed we know that James (or, perhaps, the third James) was the bishop of Jerusalem. At the Council of Jerusalem, the bishop appears to have taken a major role. It was at this first church council that the decision was made that Gentiles who accepted Christian teaching need not follow all of the Jewish laws. James suggested that they "should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God...." (Acts 15:19). After consulting with Peter, it was James who announced the conclusions to the assembly.
Early writers tell us that James was stoned to death by the scribes and Pharisees who were afraid that, because of his influence with the people, he would bring all of Jerusalem to Christ. As he was being stoned, James knelt down and prayed for his tormentors. One of the priests tried to stop the stoning, shouting to the others that James was praying on their behalf. But another priest then took a heavy stick and struck James on the head, killing him. The year of his death is commonly accepted to be 62 A.D.
St. James is the patron of druggists, hat makers, and fullers (people who make cloth “full” by pleating or gathering). He shares a Feast with another apostle, St. Philip, on May 3.
James' message today: Like many other martyrs and like Jesus, James prayed for his persecutors. It is not easy loving those with whom we are in strong disagreement, but that is what Jesus asks us to do.