May 3

St James the Lesser

Saint James, as “the son of Alphaeus” appears four times in Scripture in lists of the Twelve Apostles. There are, however, a number  of other appearances by a figure named James and sorting them out has been a challenge. He was clearly not James “son of Zebedee”, but was he the James “son of Mary”, or perhaps the James “brother of the Lord”, mentioned in Galatians? Catholic tradition has it that he was son of Alphaeus and Mary and brother (which is to say “cousin”) of Jesus.

James appears to have been prominent in the Christian community in Jerusalem. He met with Paul on a number of occasions and agreed with the decision that Gentile converts need not adhere to Jewish ritual law. Whether he was martyred by being thrown off the Temple and beaten with clubs or crucified in Egypt is uncertain but a club has long been used in art as his symbol. He is the patron saint of druggists and fullers (both professions use clubs), milliners, and Uruguay.

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