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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Harvey

The Feast of Saints Philip and James the Lesser

Today is the Feast of the Apostles St. Philip and St. James the Lesser (not to be confused with James the Greater). The Collect Prayer for the Mass that imitating them is sharing in Jesus’ Paschal Mystery and entering into the glory of heaven: 

O God, who gladden us each year with the feast day of the Apostles Philip and James, grant us, through their prayers, a share in the Passion and Resurrection of your Only Begotten Son, so that we may merit to behold you for eternity. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. 

These two apostles are not household names among Catholic families in the same way that some of the other apostles are. Yet, Philip was one of the first to be called. We learn of it from the first chapter of John’s gospel:

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” -Jn 1:43-51 
philip james

Philip’s missionary approach has been a point of reflection for many within the Church. We invite the one we love to “Come and see” he whom we know, love, and follow as Lord. We are called to be open to a more active role in bringing others to Jesus. As one of the Twelve, he was central to the earliest years of the Church and the evangelization of the nations. He was eventually put on a cross and stoned to death. 


St. James the Lesser was from Galilee and the brother of the Apostle Jude. He is the author of one of the New Testament letters. From him we receive words such as:

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. -James 1:22 
So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. -James 1:18-26 
Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. -James 5:14-16

He is not the James who is brother to John the Evangelist. James the Lesser, named so either due to height or age, is family to Jesus (essentially a cousin), became the Bishop of Jerusalem, and was martyred by being clubbed to death. From the breviary:  

“When he was ninety-six years old and had governed the Church for thirty years in a most holy manner, the Jews sought to stone him, then took him to the pinnacle of the temple and cast him off headlong. As he lay there half dead, with legs broken by the fall, he lifted his hands toward heaven and prayed to God for the salvation of his enemies, saying: Lord, forgive them for they know not what they do! While the apostle was still praying, a fuller struck his head a mortal blow." 

While these two apostles may not be as well known, that is the beauty of it. Holiness, being the person and saint God calls us to be, is not dependent upon fame or being the greatest figure of one’s century. It is about faithfulness to Jesus. Their relics are housed together in Rome.  

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