Monday, July 25, 2016

James the Greater Has Got Me Thinking

Editor's Note: Today's piece on St. James is here thanks to Alisha Olandesca. You can find her on Twitter @stainlessstyled and on the internet at

Our culture often places a high value on those who show tenacity. We love stories about folks who try, and try again. The ones that never give up. They give it their all and are richly rewarded with success. Whether they are athletes, academics, or business people. We link their value, and ours, to the success we've attained. The feel good stories only represent a fraction of the community we live in though. The rest of the world, those of us that try and fail, or fail to try at all. This group is rarely given a second glance. 

Enter Saint James the Greater. One of the original 12 apostles, he was sent to spread the gospel in Spain. He had a rough time however. Despite all of his efforts and good intentions, God did not grant him a huge number of converts. Imagine how disheartened James must have been when he learned of how many new Christians the other 11 were bringing into the fold. The knowledge of their achievements must have been immensely difficult to bear. It's not as though he was involved in something trivial here. For all intents and purposes, Saint James was failing to convince those around him that the Messiah had truly come, and had risen again!

If you were going to fail at something, you really didn't want to fail at this. 

As She likes to do, our Blessed Mother came to comfort him. She appeared to Saint James and reassured him that eventually the people would be converted. Not only be converted, but have faith as strong as a pillar. She asked him to go ahead and build a chapel on that spot, to commemorate her appearance. He faithfully completed the chapel for Our Lady of the Pillar. Then Saint James returned to Jerusalem where shortly thereafter he was martyred. 

To me, this is a depressing story. When I put myself in the sandals of Saint James, my heart aches. Viewing his story through a worldly lens, he was a failure. In his calling to spread the Gospel. In his attempts to bring Jesus to the masses. In every way that was important to him as an apostle. Then his life comes to an abrupt and tragic end. What is the moral of a story like this? 

Is it that sometimes things don't go our way? Don't give up, even when you feel you are making zero progress? 

I think what we need to do here is focus on the drudgery of his daily life. The day in and day out. Forget the fact that he didn't accomplish what he set out to do. Set aside the glorious apparition of Our Lady (temporarily of course). Leave behind our notions what success is. Focus on the obedience he showed, through the work he did. Irregardless of the outcome of his efforts, he was always obedient to God's call.

We need to honor the fact that we are all imbued with an inherent dignity that comes from preforming our daily work. The dignity of the worker has nothing to do with success. We glorify God when we are obedient to His call to work. We reflect the light of Christ in the work place with how we treat others. By honoring the dignity of those around us, outside of our culture's definition of achievement, we bring the example of Christ and Saint James into all the nooks and crannies of every day life. Into the drudgery and difficulty. Where it is often needed the most.

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