St. James Cathedral, Seattle, WA, USA

St. James the Apostle was born in Bethsaida in Judaea several years before Jesus. Also know as St. James the Greater or Elder, he was among the first to be called to follow Jesus, and he remained among the closest to Him throughout His ministry. St. James followed Jesus with great enthusiasm and was the first Apostle to be martyred. His feast day is celebrated on April 30 in the Eastern Orthodox Churches and on July 25 in the Roman Catholic, Anglican (including Episcopal), Lutheran, and some Protestant Churches. St. James is the patron saint of Spain and is honored with a pilgrimage to his shrine called the Camino de Santiago or Way of St. James.

After Jesus was baptized by His cousin John the Baptist in the Jordan River, He began to attract people interested in His teachings. Soon after, He Called his first Apostles to follow Him.

First He called Andrew and his brother, Simon Peter, then:

When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. — Mark 1:19-20

We don’t know why James was included and remained among Jesus’s closest Apostles. Perhaps it was because of his age and experience. Or perhaps it was because of James’s untiring devotion, loyalty, and faithfulness to Jesus. We do know that Jesus recognized James and John for their over-the-top enthusiasm:

These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), AndrewPhilip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of AlphaeusThaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.  — Mark 3:17

Jesus allowed them to witness his early miracles:

As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So, he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her, and she began to wait on them. — Mark: 1:29-31

When Jesus gave life back to the daughter of Jairus, the synagogue leader:

He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. — Mark 4:37

Once a Samaritan village refused to accept Jesus as a guest, which riled up the Sons of Thunder big time:

When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven to consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them. — Luke 9:54-55

I imagine His rebuke sounded a lot like “settle down.” Then Jesus let them witness his Transfiguration:

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. — Mark 9:2-4

Later, seemingly because they felt specially chosen, they spoke even more boldly:

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘We want you to do for us whatever we ask.’

‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked.

They replied, ‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’

‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said. ‘Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?’

‘We can,’ they answered.

Jesus said to them, ‘You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.’

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. No so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ — Mark 10: 35-45

Jesus meant that the ones who’ll sit beside Him in heaven have already been chosen by the Father and will probably be the ones who suffer the most on earth. And then He explained to all the Apostles that the cup they wished to share was heavy with sacrifice and loaded with service, not glory.

Jesus recognized something in James, John, and Peter. Something He needed with Him as He prayed to His Father the night before He was to be Crucified.

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’

He took Peter, James, and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba Father,’ he said, ‘Everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Simon,’ he said to Peter, ‘Are you asleep? Couldn’t keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’

Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.

Returning the third time, he said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’ – Mark 14:32-42

There’s a lot that could be said about this passage. Suffice to say, even the most enthusiastic of Christians can have trouble opening their eyes to reality.

James never settled down in his Love of Jesus Christ. After the Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost; James preached, in his in-your-face style, far and wide.

According to Spanish lore shared down through the ages, around 39 AD, James traveled to Iberia (modern-day Spain and Portugal) to preach.

On January 2, 40 AD, Blessed Mother Mary appeared to James on a pillar on the bank of the Ebro River at Caesaraugusta while he was preaching the Gospel. That pillar, Nuestra Seῆora del Pilar is conserved and venerated in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza, Spain.

After experiencing the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, James returned to Judea and continued preaching.

No doubt, it was his thunderous, overly enthusiastic ways that drew Harrod Agrippa’s brutal attention in 42 or 44 AD (depending on the calendar):

King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword.” — Acts 12:1-2

St. James was the only one of the Twelve Apostles whose death is recorded in the New Testament.

Many miracles later, his remains, or relics, were discovered in Iria Flavia in Iberia and later relocated to Compostela in Galicia where they are venerated in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

In the early middle ages, a series of roads and paths leading to and through Spain called the Camino de Santiago or Way of St. James, was created by pilgrims and has been the most popular pilgrimage in Western Europe for centuries.

O Gracious God, we remember before you today your servant and apostle James, first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the Name of Jesus Christ; and we pray that you will pour out upon the leaders of your Church that spirit of self-denying service by which alone they may have true authority among your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. – LESSER FEASTS AND FASTS 2018

In honor of St. James and all the pilgrims who travel the Camino de Santiago, I offer this traditional Spanish fare — a perfect pilgrim’s lunch.

Tortilla de Patatas Bocadillo (Spanish Omelette Sandwich)

1 cup olive oil
4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
5 eggs
Salt, to taste
1 French baguette

Cut potatoes in half, lengthwise, then slice about 1/8 inch thick.

Heat olive oil in a 9-inch skillet over medium-high heat.

Cook potato slices in batches until edges turn golden, about five minutes.

Drain on a paper towel-layered platter. Sprinkle with salt, if desired.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and add salt, if desired.

Add potatoes and stir to coat with the egg mixture.

Carefully pour the olive oil into a container to discard most of it later. Return about 3 tablespoons to the skillet over medium-high heat.

Pour potato-egg mixture into skillet, spread out to the edges.

Lower heat to medium. Cook until mixture is half set, about five minutes. Shake the pan a few times to prevent sticking.

Wearing oven mitts, use a plate to cover the skillet and flip upside down so omelette lands on plate. Set down.

Add 1 tablespoon of oil to skillet and slide the omelette back in on its uncooked side.

Cook until completely set. About 3 minutes.

Cool. Cut into wedges. Can be served warm, room-temperature, or cold.

Make sandwiches with baguette spread with mayonnaise, mustard, or ketchup.


FUMBLING: A JOURNEY OF LOVE, ADVENTURE, AND RENEWAL ON THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO by Kerry Egan is brilliant. I LOVE it! Sadly, it’s out of print, which is why I put this book review in the Bonus Material. The good news is that it’s available as an e-book! Copies are also available in the used market, and I bet you can find it at your local library. I highly recommend this book! It didn’t change my life, but wow, I really enjoyed it.

The author decided, rather abruptly, to walk the Camino De Santiago to deal with her grief over her father’s death. She was also a divinity student at the time. So, the book is filled with fascinating facts about spiritual pilgrimages, and, of course, her experiences along the route, and her slow steeping introduction to God’s presence. That’s all good stuff, and pretty much what I expected.

What I didn’t expect was how powerful the love story would be. How, without any PDA’s at all, Kerry shares with us her dawning understanding of just how much her boyfriend (and fellow pilgrim) deeply loves her. His love was the conduit through which she was able to recognize God’s abiding presence, acceptance, forgiveness, and Love.

Whereas I, on the other hand, recognized Jesus standing right here next to me all along via my love of a psychedelic rock band and a bit o’ British satire written by an atheist.

I know. My weirdness astounds even me. But, I look to St. Francis of Assisi and his crazy love of everyone and everything, and I’m comforted.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure Ron and Hermione were the last couple in love that I’ve read about. I totally need to rethink my entire book collection right now! I want a shelf devoted to love stories. And not Heathcliff and Catherine, for God’s sake!

The quotes I chose to share are of general interest to those who journey. Read the book yourself for the love story and the Love story.

Be for them, Lord, a defense in emergency, a harbor in shipwreck, a refuge in the journey, shade in the heat, light in the darkness, a staff on the slippery slope, joy amidst suffering, consolation in sadness, safety in adversity, caution in prosperity, so that these your servants, under your leadership, may arrive where they are boldly going, and may return unharmed, and the church which laments their absence may experience the joy of their safe and prosperous return . . .  — From a liturgy for those setting off on pilgrimage, The Missal of Vich, A.D. 1038 – Introduction

People have been journeying to sacred places for many thousands of years and pilgrimage as a recognizable form is found in all of the major world religions today, in varying guises and with varying levels of importance. Victor and Edith Turner, anthropologists whose ideas and theories about pilgrimage have deeply shaped the way scholars approach the phenomenon, suggest that the pilgrimage experience is one of liminality, a time in which a person is separate and apart from everyday life and expectations, apart from the normal patterns and strictures of society. A pilgrim is in an in-between space for a little while, a time both of great transition and great potential. In this place you can learn and experience things that it would not be possible to learn while not on pilgrimage. A pilgrim experiences communitas, the elimination of differences between people of different ages, classes, and nationalities. Barriers between people are thrown aside as a great feeling of unity and connectedness brings people together in a way that seems impossible within the regular structures of society. This communitas is a force that can transform society. On pilgrimage, the place is holy, but the journey itself – the time as a pilgrim – is transformative, cleansing, and purifying.

Pilgrims, at least for the time they are pilgrims, are different from other people, and pilgrimages sites are different from other places. Sometimes they have been recognized as sacred for a long, long, time, through many different religions and peoples and cultures, as though the sacredness of the place is an integral characteristic of the geography, just as the soil might be dark loam or red clay, or the climate dry or wet. For example, some wells in Ireland have been sacred since before Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland; wells once sacred to the pre-Christian goddess Brighid are now sacred to the Virgin Mary. The understanding of why these places are sacred or to whom has changed as the religious beliefs and understanding of the people has changed, but the unique nature of the place remains as one set apart, different.

The Camino is made up of both the land—the physical surroundings and the physical work of getting through that land—and the people one meets, both fellow pilgrims and those who live along the route. The very act of pilgrimage—the jump from an idea to the action of walking hundreds of miles in a place where one is a complete stranger—is possible because of the people like Felicia.

Is what makes the place sacred in the land itself, in the air, in the water, present since the earth was formed? Or is it all those prayers, millions of prayers, soaking into the dirt, into the rivers, into the plants, into the people who live along the way? — Page 17-19

There was something comforting, standing on that hill, in realizing that we were not the only people to be thirsty and discouraged, in realizing that millions of people had walked this way before, with the same goal, and perhaps even the same doubts. Reminders of the modern pilgrim’s relationship and continuity with the past are everywhere along the Camino.

This is a field that millions of people have passed before you, that is a fountain that people have drunk from since Roman times. Those ruts in the stone paving were made by thousands of iron wagon wheels trundling along, and in this church, people have fallen to their knees and prayed for a thousand years. Someone else was hot and tired and thirsty and overwhelmed before you. — Page 68-69

Catholic pilgrimage is, by its nature, both an internal, personal spiritual exercise and a deeply social action, its spiritual meaning embedded within and only possible through the larger community of the Church. One walks with other pilgrims in the present day, but also with all the saints and people of the past. We are all connected across time. Just as holiness seems to seep, so, too, is it believed, do the benefits of private spiritual exercise. Indulgences can be earned for other people; prayer can affect the fate of the dead. One asks a saint to pray for her because it is believed that the saint’s prayer (or the prayer of anyone, for that matter) can effectively change one’s heart and life, that prayer can literally change the world. — Page 72

Will I ever walk the Camino de Santiago myself? Maybe. But, it’s not on my bucket list, mostly because I have the Appalachian Trail right here. I mean, it’s right here. Nevertheless, I have a passion for learning about peoples’ journeys, spiritual or otherwise, and I aspire to this level of empathy:

‘How are your feet?’ he asked me intently.

I hope I learn how to do this someday—not just to rest but to allow others to rest, and to perceive in others when they need to be invited to sit down for a moment, when they need someone to ask how their feet are, and be able to do so in a seamless, simple manner in which the receiver has no idea just how much she is receiving and just how much the giver is giving until much later, until years later when I read my diary and write these words and understand just what they gave me that afternoon, and I suspect what they gave to Alex. They gave us permission to rest for a little while not just from the physical work of the journey but also from the emotional and spiritual work. Maybe this is something you learn how to do when you become old. — Page 98

Finally, here’s a bit about stained glass I never knew:

It isn’t known for sure when people first started to make stained glass, but one of the oldest fragments found is from the seventh century. Around 1100, a monk named Theophilus wrote down how to make stained glass, the first recorded mention of it. By then, the medieval technology and artistry of creating colored light through glass had been perfected. The colors don’t actually come from the pigments in the glass. They result when different minerals and metallic oxides are added to the molten sand or silica. These elements act as filters, blocking out some of the spectrum of natural light as it passes through the window, letting only some of the colors of light through. Gold makes reds, copper makes greens, and cobalt makes blues. Because it isn’t dyed, stained glass does not fade. — Page 151

Second Bonus Material:

Magdalenas are similar to Madeleines the French bake in honor of St. Mary Magdalene and other occasions. Legend has it, a young Spanish girl named Magdalena served these handheld cakes to pilgrims journeying along the Camino de Santiago which officially begins at the border between Spain and France in the Pyrenees Mountains. In honor of all pilgrims and those who serve them with sustenance or intercessory prayers, let’s bake:


¾ cup sugar

4 eggs, room temperature

1 stick butter, melted, cooled

1 teaspoon orange extract

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 2/3 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

About 1/2 TBS vegetable or canola oil for greasing muffin cups

¼ cup honey, warmed

Option: Replace orange extract and juice with lemon. Replace drizzling honey on top of Magdalenas after they come out of oven, with sprinkling sugar on top of Magdalenas before they go into oven.

Beat eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl with an egg beater or fork until mixture is light with air bubbles.

Melt butter in microwave, allow to cool. Beat into egg mixture.

Stir in orange extract and orange juice.

In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Mix with a fork.

Add flour mixture to egg mixture with one hand, while stirring with the other. Stir until mixed well.

Allow mixture to rest on counter for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.

Spoon batter evenly into the muffin cups, each about ¾ full.

Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until Magdalenas turn golden on the edges, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached.

Remove from oven. Drizzle about a teaspoon of warmed honey on top of each Magdalena.

Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then remove from pan. Serve warm or allow to cool completely on wire rack.

This recipe shows up in the bonus material of my posts on St. Mary Magdalene and St. Ignatius because prayer can be retroactive, active, and proactive, and because everyone and everything connects, including you and me. So, you know, fist bump on that.

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4 Responses

  1. Anne Deneen says:

    Loved this entry. He’s one of my favorites. I always loved the sons of thunder.
    I so enjoy your blog.

  2. Maria Virginia Ross says:

    Thank you, Anne!

  3. Beth says:

    Interesting and I especially love the recipes this time!!

  4. Maria Virginia Ross says:

    Thanks, Beth!

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