Saturday, May 3, 2014

Which one

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the apostles Phillip and James. The first question one might ask is, which James? And the answer may be even more confusing, James the Lesser. The title comes from Mark 15:40, and is used to distinguish James, son of Alpheus (today's) from James, the son of Zebedee. It should be noted that the Greek name is Ιάκωβος (Jacobos). We translate that James, the Spanish translation being Santiago. So the one celebrated in Spain is James the Greater, the son of Zebedee.

This Feast has a particular meaning for me because during my Rome days I used to like to walk out my back door, around the corner to the Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles (Santi Apostoli). There I would go down stairs to the place you could kneel and pray before the relics of today's saints.

All I can say is that when I was praying in that place it was as if time stood still and I could have stayed there forever. I wouldn't dream of trying to explain it; all I can say is what I felt. It was there that I really came to understand the concept of a holy place. There are only a few other places I have felt that sense of peace and stillness. If it sounds crazy, so be it.

We speak of the Church as the Body of Christ, and we speak of our oneness. Places like this remind us that we are not only all linked to Christ, but to one another. In Christ, we are linked to Phillip and James, and all of the Apostles. When we speak of the Church as one holy catholic and apostolic, we are not just saying we believe the apostles were the beginning. We believe that from their place in heaven they guide us still.

In the words from the first preface for Aposltes:
For you, eternal Shepherd, do not desert your flock,
but through the blessed Apostles
watch over it and protect it always,

Today we turn to Phillip and James and we ask them to continue to watch over and intercede for the Church. May every one of us have the courage of those original apostles, and never cease to proclaim our faith.