Image of St. James the Greater from the Cathedral of Segovia, Spain.
Today is the great feast day of the Apostle, St. James the Greater, and also the feast of the famous patron of travelers, St. Christopher. On such an occasion, we should say something, at least briefly, on each.
St. James the Greater was one of the twelve Apostles chosen by our Divine Lord, a son of Zebedee and Salome (cf. Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; 16:1). He was, further, the brother of St. John the Evangelist, the Beloved Apostle.
The following account from the Old Catholic Encyclopedia sums up St. James and his ministry rather well:
"The Galilean origin of St. James in some degree explains the energy of temper and the vehemence of character which earned for him and St. John the name of Boanerges, "sons of thunder" (Mark 3:17); the Galilean race was religious, hardy, industrious, brave, and the strongest defender of the Jewish nation.
When John the Baptist proclaimed the kingdom of the Messias, St. John became a disciple (John 1:35); he was directed to "the Lamb of God" and afterwards brought his brother James to the Messias; the obvious meaning of John 1:41, is that St. Andrew finds his brother (St. Peter) first and that afterwards St. John (who does not name himself, according to his habitual and characteristic reserve and silence about himself) finds his brother (St. James). The call of St. James to the discipleship of the Messias is reported in a parallel or identical narration by Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:19 sq.; and Luke 5:1-11. The two sons of Zebedee, as well as Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew with whom they were in partnership (Luke 5:10), were called by the Lord upon the Sea of Galilee, where all four with Zebedee and his hired servants were engaged in their ordinary occupation of fishing. The sons of Zebedee "forthwith left their nets and father, and followed him" (Matthew 4:22), and became "fishers of men".
St. James was afterwards with the other eleven called to the Apostleship (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:13). In all four lists the names of Peter and Andrew, James and John form the first group, a prominent and chosen group (cf. Mark 13:3); especially Peter, James, and John. These three Apostles alone were admitted to be present at the miracle of the raising of Jairus's daughter (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51), at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:1; Matthew 17:1; Luke 9:28), and the Agony in Gethsemani (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33). The fact that the name of James occurs always (except in Luke 8:51; 9:28; Acts 1:13 — Greek Text) before that of his brother seems to imply that James was the elder of the two. It is worthy of notice that James is never mentioned in the Gospel of St. John; this author observes a humble reserve not only with regard to himself, but also about the members of his family.
Several incidents scattered through the Synoptics suggest that James and John had that particular character indicated by the name "Boanerges," sons of thunder, given to them by the Lord (Mark 3:17); they were burning and impetuous in their evangelical zeal and severe in temper. The two brothers showed their fiery temperament against "a certain man casting out devils" in the name of the Christ; John, answering, said: "We [James is probably meant] forbade him, because he followeth not with us" (Luke 9:49). When the Samaritans refused to receive Christ, James and John said: "Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?" (Luke 9:54; cf. 9:49)." [Cf., http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08279b.htm]
St. James, after the Passion and Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, preached the Gospel of Christ, and was finally beheaded at the order of Herod Agrippa in 42 or 44AD. This webpage gives a good overview of the saint: http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-james-the-greater/
Image of St. James under the title of "Matamoros" -- a great patron of the Reconquista of Spain from the Muslims.
The site most associated with St. James the Greater now is, of course, the site of relics in Compostela in Galicia, Spain. The great Shrine of Santiago de Compostella is one of the great pilgrimage sites in all Christendom. Indeed, the great Camino, or pilgrimage, is still a popular way to arrive at the holy site. The authenticity of the relics of Compostella is attested to by Pope Leo XIII in his Bull, "Omnipotens Deus," of 1 November, 1884. Here is a link to the site of the great Cathedral at Compostella: http://www.catedraldesantiago.es/
Image of St. Christopher, circa 1588, by Simon Pereyns, from the Cathedral of Mexico City.
Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Christopher, about whom we know a great deal less. He was a martyr of Lycia in Asia Minor who suffered for the Christian Faith in 250AD, during the savage persecution of Decius. The Old Catholic Encyclopedia gives an account of his legend: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03728a.htm. Likewise, this site provides some information: http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-christopher/
St. James the Greater and St. Christopher, pray for us!