UCAN Spirituality Catholic Church News

Sts Philip and James, Apostles



Philip and James are often mentioned together in the gospels.

We know that Philip was from Bethsaida and a Disciple of John the Baptist before he became one of the first apostles. We also know that he brought Saint Nathanael to Jesus.  Philip was the one who asked Jesus about where to buy bread to feed the 5,000. During Holy Week, Philip and Andrew brought some inquiring Greeks to Jesus. And at the Last Supper, Philip asked Jesus to show the Father to him and to the rest of the disciples.

Tradition tells us that he preached the good news in Asia Minor, where he was martyred around the year 80 at Hierapolis in Phrygia. He is the patron of hat makers, milliners, pastry chefs, and many towns and cities.

We know more about St James, but the number of people called James in the gospel makes any knowledge uncertain. There is

  • James, the son of Zebedee, brother of John
  • James, the son of Alpheus,
  • James, the brother of the Lord
  • James, the son of Mary (Clephas?), brother of Joseph
  • James the brother of Jude.

Today’s James is known as James the lesser (see Mark 15:40), the son of Mary Cleophas. He is also believed to be the same person as James the son of Alphaeus and James the brother of the Lord (see Galatians 1:19, 2:9, 2:12).

 This James was the first Bishop of Jerusalem and, as we know from the Acts of the Apostles, he met with St Paul to decide where they would each preach the good news. He supported the argument that Gentile converts did not have to obey all Jewish religious law, though he continued to observe it himself as part of his heritage.

His mother, Mary Cleophas, was one of the faithful women who stood at the cross of Jesus.  The same New Testament apostolic lists that mention Philip also mention James We also have no information about his Apostolic service or the circumstances of his death, except that he may have been martyred by being sawed in two.

One tradition says that James was called the “Just”, that he drank neither wine nor strong drink, nor ate animal food, that no razor touched his head, that he did not anoint himself or make use of the bath, and lastly that he was put to death by the Jews.

According to another tradition he was dedicated to prayer. He is reported to have spent so much time in prayer that his knees thickened, and looked like a camel’s. He is believed to have been martyred around the year 62 at Jerusalem by being thrown from the Temple, and then stoned and beaten with clubs, including fuller‘s mallets, while praying for his attackers.

As a result a club became his symbol. This led to him being made patron of fullers and pharmacists, who use clubs to mix colours and medicines.