The Feast Day of St. Philip and St. James the Less

1st May

Philip, the Apostle with Common Sense

Is there someone in church whom you respect for their spirituality and common sense combined?  Someone you feel easy about approaching to ask questions?  That person’s patron saint should be Philip.

Philip came from Bethsaida and was a disciple of Jesus from early on.  He knew how to lead others to Jesus; he brought Nathanael (or Bartholomew) to Him in a calm, kindly way.  He knew how to do some financial forecasting: at the feeding of the 5,000 it was he who pointed out that without divine help, even 200 pennyworths of bread weren’t going to feed that crowd (John 6: 5-7).  He was the one whom the Greeks approached when they wanted to ask Jesus to show them the Father but didn’t quite have the nerve to approach Jesus directly (John 12: 20-22).  People had confidence in Philip’s spirituality, common sense, and kindliness.  Such a person is a gift to any church!  In art, the Apostle Philip has been represented either with a cross, or with loaves of bread.

James the Less; the Quiet Son of Alphaeus

One thing is for sure:  the apostles were not self-obsessed.  In fact, many a church historian has wished that they had left us just a few more personal details about themselves in the New Testament.  James the Less is an excellent example.

This is the name we give to James the son of Alphaeus, but beyond that, who was he? Sometimes he is identified as the James whose mother stood by Christ on the cross.  Sometimes he is thought to be the James who was ‘brother of the Lord’ (Galatians 1:19).  Sometimes he is thought to be the James who saw the risen Christ (1 Corinthians 15:7). He has also, and often, been called the first Bishop of Jerusalem.  Finally, he has sometimes been thought of as the author of the Epistle of James.

But who really knows? If none of these identifications are correct, we know practically nothing about James the Less.  So perhaps on this day we can simply recall ‘all’ of the James’ above and thank God for the Mother who stood by the cross, the brother that supported Jesus, the apostle who saw his risen Lord and gave his life to proclaiming the truth, the first Bishop of Jerusalem, and the author of the marvellous Epistle of James.  Whether it was one James or several, they were all faithful to Jesus, and proclaimed Him as the Messiah.  So perhaps that should make them James the More!

James the Less has been given an unusual iconographic emblem: a fuller’s club; tradition has it that he was beaten to death with one after being sentenced by the Sanhedrin in AD62, St. James the Less in Art (  In England there are only 26 churches which are dedicated to James the Less.


Collect for Saint Philip and Saint James’s Day

O ALMIGHTY God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us perfectly to know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life; that, following the steps of thy holy Apostles, Saint Philip and Saint James, we may steadfastly walk in the way that leadeth to eternal life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The feature image for this post is cropped from “Hürbel Pfarrkirche Fenster Apostel Jakobus minor und Philippus”, Wikicommons, P.D. Full image shown below.

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