Saints & Statues

“We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses,” wrote the author of the New Testament letter to the Hebrews (12:1).  In St. James as in every Catholic Church, images of saints are an important part of the devotional life of the faithful, reminding us that we are part of a great communion of saints, whose holy lives offer us an example to follow and whose powerful intercession helps us on our pilgrimage of faith.  Candles burn constantly before the statues of St. Joseph, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Anthony of Padua, and the Christ Child (the Infant of Prague), bespeaking the devotion of many of the faithful.

Above the north door of the Cathedral, near the Mary shrine, is the principal image of St. James.  This carving, by Italian craftsmen, formed part of the 1950 high altar of the Cathedral.  In keeping with a long iconographic tradition, James is depicted as a pilgrim on his way to Santiago de Compostela, one of the great pilgrimage destinations of the Middle Ages (and today!).  He carries a walking stick to which a gourd, to carry a day’s supply of water, is attached, and his voluminous robes billow in the wind.  On his sash is a scallop-shell, the sign of a pilgrim to Compostela.

The marble statue of St. Joseph dates from 1907, and is the work of Italian artisans.  Joseph holds a square, a carpenter’s tool, and a lily, a symbol of his purity of heart.

The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the North Transept also dates from 1907.  The statue was the gift of the Agen family – whose descendants still worship at St. James Cathedral!  This delicate image of the Blessed Virgin Mary in white marble suggests her openness to God, as she stretches out her hands in acceptance of the divine plan.

In the South Transept, the statue called “The Sacred Heart Pleading” speaks of the love of Christ, whose heart is on fire with love for all people.  This statue is a replica.  The original 1907 statue, commissioned by Bishop O’Dea, was destroyed by a mentally ill person in the 1970s.

In September, 2012, a new shrine in honor of Blessed John XXIII, the Pope who called the Second Vatican Council, was unveiled. Blessed John XXIII reaches out in a gesture of openness, welcome, and prayer. The statue is the work of Seattle sculptor John Sisko, who collaborated with architect Stephen Lee to create the unique setting for the image. The statue stands 54" high, somewhat smaller than life size.

Blessed John XXIII, pray for us!