JULY 25 – JAMES THE GREAT, Apostle and Co-Patron

His name means that holiness has made its lasting dwelling in him. Sant Yacob, Sant-Iago – James is the brother of John and son of Zebedee, the head of a wealthy fishing family in Capernaum. James and John are mentioned in the Synoptic gospels as among the first disciples called by Jesus (cf. Mk 1.18-20).

James and Peter are the only two of the Twelve, whose post-Pentecost activities are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. James died a martyr in Jerusalem during the reign of Herod Agrippa (40-44?), the first of the Apostles to shed his blood for Christ (Acts 12.2). This martyrdom is the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophesying that James and John would drink of the same cup (Mk 10.39). Peter’s martyrdom is foreseen in John 21.18ff.

There is no Patristic evidence of James’ apostolic activity, although a tradition arose, claiming James had preached in Spain. Another tradition, dating from the ninth century, says he is buried in Galicia.

The first mention of this is found in the Breviarium Romanum of the seventh century. References to his burial in Galicia are not found until the 9th century in the Martyrology of Floro (808-838). This tradition is undermined by the fact that the fifth century poet Aurelio Prudencio sings of the glories of Christian Spain without mentioning James’ apostolate. Nonetheless, the alleged discovery of the tomb of Santiago en Compostela.

Finding of the tomb of Santiago en Compostela (Spain) turned this place into a center of pilgrimage comparable only to Jerusalem and Rome.

Jacob was the great patriarch of Israel. James the Son of Zebedee and the brother of John is usually referred to as James the Great, as distinct from James the Less, mentioned in Mark 15.40.

The Synoptic (Mk 1.16-20) indicate that, immediately after calling Peter and Andrew, Jesus called James and John. It appears they were already acquainted. After the resurrection they went fishing together (cf. Jn 21.2ff; Lk 5.10).

On his way to Jerusalem Jesus encounters hostility. James and John, are prepared to call down fire from heaven upon the inhospitable Samaritans (Luke 9.54), but Jesus rebukes them severely. Perhaps it was such impetuosity which caused them to be named Sons of Thunder (Mk 3.17). Luke burnishes the image of the brothers, neglecting to mention the name Jesus gives them (Luke 6.14) and their wishing to be first in the reign Jesus would establish.

James’ martyrdom in 44 AD suggests that the apostle was distinguished for his preaching and defense of the faith in the face of reactionary Judaism.

Claretian Reflection

Most of Claret’s sermons are not originally his arrangements of sources. This shows what caught his attention. About James Claret says:

“What should I admire more: the love of Jesus Christ for James or the love of James for Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ’s love toward James is seen in his calling him and making him his disciple with the dignity of an apostle, favoring him with extraordinary blessings and teachings. James’ love toward Jesus Christ is manifested in prompt obedience, generous sacrifice and burning zeal. Because of his faithful love, James was privileged to be the first of the apostles to undergo martyrdom. He was the first to fall.

[…] As unlettered men of no worldly stature, ignored by the world around them, they were, even themselves, unaware of the honors and dangers they enjoyed. Thanks to Jesus Christ, they viewed the world graciously and contentment. He called them. More important, he called them to be his disciples. This is James’ vocation and proof of his love toward Jesus Christ. A disciple, in no time James was numbered among the apostles: twelve men set apart from the others and chosen by Jesus Christ – the Twelve – to witness him in action, safeguard his secrets, interpret his teaching, preach the Gospel, and found the Church as well as to be victims of the faith. Among those chosen men, James occupied third place… Boanerges, son of thunder, was the curious name he received, of fulfilling all that it signifies” (2, pp. 252 ff.).

Our Founder sees his own preaching ministry, as well as that of the Congregation, in providential continuity with the Sons of Thunder. “On September 24, the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, at 11:30 in the morning, the Lord gave me to understand another passage of the Apocalypse (10:1): “Then I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven wrapped in a cloud […] He placed his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the law [first in his diocese of Cuba and later in other dioceses], and then he gave out a loud cry like the roar of a lion. When he cried out, the seven thunders raised their voices too.” Here come the sons of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It says seven, but seven is an indefinite number here, meaning all. They are called thunders because they will shout like thunder and make their voices heard. They are also called thunders because of their love and zeal, like that of St’s. James and John, who were called the sons of thunder. And the Lord wants me and my companions to imitate the Apostles James and John in zeal, chastity, and love for Jesus and Mary” (Aut 686).

“In no other way has God our Lord manifested his love for us, as he has in sending us His only begotten Son to redeem and save us, and to be the head and model of all other missionaries […]. In the world Jesus Christ carried out no work more acceptable to his eternal Father, nor more glorious, than to be the Savior of the world. Well, this ministry so sublime, so holy and so divine; Jesus Christ has deigned to entrust to the apostles and to the apostolic missionaries, telling them: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn. 20:21). He wanted, Saint Jerome says, that we also should be saviors of the world. Beloved Theophilus, can you imagine any honor similar to that which Jesus Christ bestows by admitting us to his apostolate and sharing with us the title of the savior of the world? We must, therefore, resolve to follow in his footsteps, in working day and night in our mission, to shed the blood of our veins, and pour out our life in the best of our years, as Jesus did, if this is his holy will” (1, p. 344).


  1. CLARET. Letter to the missionary Teófilo, in EE, Madrid 1985.
  2. CLARET. Collection of selected panegyrics, t. V, Barcelona 1860.
  3. FERNANDEZ ALONSO, J., Art. Giacomo il Maggiore in Bibliotheca Sanctorum, t. VI, Rome 1965, col. 364.
  4. LEON-DUFOUR, X., Apostle Voice, in dictionary of the New Testament, Bilbao 2002.
  5. MEIER, J. P., A Marginal Jew, t. III, Estella 2004.