In Your Midst

THE PILGRIM SAINT

Summer 2002

In This Issue:
Which St. James? We hear the name of James twice in the canon of apostles and martyrs: “Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip…” Our St. James is the first of the two, traditionally called “the greater.” He and his brother John were fishermen, and were among the first disciples to be called. Jesus, walking along the shore, saw them hard at work in a boat with their father. “He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.” They followed without hesitation, without asking questions and without looking back.

Later James and John, with Peter, became the most privileged of all the disciples. They alone were admitted to witness the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the glory of the Lord’s transfiguration on Tabor, and his agony in the garden.

Cathedral Patron: St. James the Apostle.

Tradition has richly embellished the simple history of St. James that comes to us from the gospels. According to this tradition, James traveled as far as Spain to preach the gospel before returning to Jerusalem to be martyred at the hands of Herod. Two of his companions climbed with the martyr’s remains into a rudderless boat which drifted, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to Spain, where the apostle was buried. In due time, his faithful friends were buried beside him and the site of the tomb was forgotten. In the ninth century it was rediscovered when the local Bishop, Teodomiro, followed a vision of stars to the location of the tomb. From that time onward, people began to pray at the tomb in increasing numbers. In the 13th century, a mighty cathedral was built over the tomb to accommodate the flood of pilgrims.

After a long and dusty journey through the north of Spain, the pilgrims would catch their first glimpse of the towers of the Cathedral of Santiago from a hilltop that came to be called Mount Joy. On arrival, after visiting the tomb and greeting the image of St. James with a kiss, pilgrims would receive their Compostela, a document certifying that they had completed the pilgrimage, and the coveted scallop shell, the symbol of pilgrimage to Santiago. These emblems of the pilgrim — the staff and the scallop shell — became associated with the Saint himself, who in art is frequently represented as a pilgrim, and almost always with his scallop shell.

St. James the Greater is represented several times in St. James Cathedral and a brief visit to each of these images is a small pilgrimage in itself — a suitable devotion for the month of July!

Stage 1: Our pilgrimage begins on the front steps of the Cathedral where a statue of St. James crowns the façade of the building. This simple, almost severe image carved out of Indiana limestone shows the saint with a book in his right hand, staff and scrip in his left. On the pedestal is a sword surmounted by a scallop shell. The sword (another emblem of St. James) originates in James’ ancient title “the Moorslayer” he was frequently invoked in the wars against the Moors and was, according to legend, seen fighting for the Spanish on the battlefield.

Stage 2: The next image of St. James is small, humble, and very easy to overlook. A little figure of the saint forms one of the four bronze doorstops for the ceremonial bronze doors at the Cathedral’s main entrance. Here, James is shown on his knees, fishing nets in hand. He has just heard the call of Jesus, and the nets fall from his fingers as he heeds the voice of the Lord.

Stage 3: Inside the Cathedral, head to your left, toward the north aisle. The first stained glass window on the left is the next stop on our pilgrimage. This window by Charles Connick shows the apostle with a green and blue mantle over his brown pilgrim’s robe and sandals. A gourd crowns his staff, and he wears a cockleshell on his pilgrim hat. His red book and vivid red halo remind us of his martyrdom.

Stage 4: The principal image of St. James is found in the northeast corner of the Cathedral, just outside the shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This dramatic and beautiful representation shows the Saint as a pilgrim on the way to Compostela. He seems to be standing on a windy road, with his voluminous pilgrim cape blowing about him. He is bent on his journey and yet he casts an intense glance toward the altar and impels us to follow his gaze. Watching over the people of St. James Cathedral in all their comings and goings, he is a fitting emblem of the pilgrim church.

Almighty Father, by the martyrdom of St. James you blessed the early Church.
May his profession of faith give us courage and his prayers being us strength.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

The Sacramentary
Opening Prayer on the Feast of St. James.

Our celebration of the Feast of St. James is Sunday, July 28th.
The entire parish is invited to a picnic on Terry Avenue.

Maria Laughlin is the Cathedral receptionist and author of St. James the Greater, an illustrated history of St. James Cathedral’s patron. The text of this article is adapted from this booklet.


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