St. James, the Son of Alphensus, (known as St. James the Lesser) went on to serve as the Bishop of Jerusalem after our Lord's Resurrection. He was part of the Jerusalem Council that decided which dietary restrictions and Jewish customs the new Gentile converts had to follow. His Epistle is part of the Bible and often quoted in Papal encyclicals. His time on earth was devoted to spreading the good news of Jesus by preaching and writing and through the example of his holy life. In this lesson we will study the life of St. James the Lesser as presented in the Gospels, in the writings of the Church Fathers, and in the Catechism. We will also learn several prayers to him and have an engaging activity in honor of St. James.
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Saint James’ preaching, way of life and writings were important for the early Church. They are also an inspiration for the Church today.
The Epistle of St. James is located just after St. Paul’s Epistles to specific communities (such as the Corinthians and Hebrews) in the Bible. St. James’ Epistle is known as a General letter as opposed to a letter to a specific community and, as such, it covers a wide range of topics. Just as the Early Fathers discussed the letter, many Popes have also quoted from the Epistle. Pope Pius VI quoted St. James in his encyclical about the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick:
“The Catholic Church professes and teaches that the Sacred Anointing of the Sick is one of the seven Sacraments of the New Testament, that it was instituted by Christ and that it is “alluded to in Mark (Mk. 6:13) and recommended and promulgated to the faithful by James the apostle and brother of the Lord. If any one of you is ill, he says, he should send for the elders of the church, and they must anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him. The prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up again, and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven (James 5:14-15).” (Pope Pius VI encyclical The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, November 30, 1972).
Pope Pius XI quoted St. James in 1937 in his encyclical as he urged the faithful to fight Communism -
“But this doctrine must be consistently reduced to practice in every-day life, according to the admonition of St. James the Apostle: “Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22) The most urgent need of the present day is therefore the energetic and timely application of remedies which will effectively ward off the catastrophe that daily grows more threatening.” (Pope Pius XI encyclical On Atheistic Communism, March 19, 1937)
Pope Pius XI reminds his readers that the Church has always urged the rich to give to the poor, once again quoting from St. James –
“Otherwise there shall be verified of them and their riches the harsh condemnation of St. James the Apostle: “Go to now, ye rich men; weep and howl in your miseries which shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten; your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be for a testimony against you and shall eat your flesh like fire. You have s...
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St. James the Lesser is part of the following course(s):