Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Happy St. James Day

Last summer our World Youth Day Pilgrims travelled to Spain to celebrate with the Holy Father and over a million young people. As part of the pilgrimage we visited the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. There we had the opportunity to celebrate the life and deeds of James, son of Zebedee.
The memories of that pilgrimage filters back today on Saint James' Day (Santiago Apostol). Saint James was one of Jesus' first disciples. Some Christians believe that his remains are buried in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Many events are organized on and before Saint James' Day in the Basque Country and Galicia.
These include:

•Special church services to honor the life and work of Saint James.
•Exhibitions of art work by artists born or living in or near Santiago de Compostela.
•Theatre productions and street shows.
•Concerts of modern and traditional music, including bagpipe performances.
•Traditional dance events held outside.

Special services are held in the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela on July 25. Church officials swing a large incense burner at full speed during this service. They fill the whole church with incense smoke.

St James, son of Zebedee, was an apostles and a brother of John the Apostle, according to Christian belief. He lived at the same time as Jesus. He may have traveled to the area that is now Santiago de Compostela.

St James was beheaded in Judea in the year 44 A.D. Some Christians believe that his disciples carried his body by sea to PadrĂ³n on the Galician coast. They then buried his body under what is now the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

St James' relics were discovered sometime between 791 and 842 A.D. Santiago de Compostela then became a place of pilgrimage. Pope Leo XIII asserted that the relics of St James at Compostela were authentic in a papal bull. This papal bull was published on November 1, 1884.

Common symbols of St James include a traveler's hat and a scallop shell. The scallop shell is used to mark a network of pilgrimage routes. These routes lead to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela from many European countries, including:
Thousands of people walk, cycle or ride a horse along the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela each year. Many people hope to arrive just before Saint James' Day.