Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Saint James the Lesser (d. first century)

Saint James the Lesser (d. first century)

Patron saint of pharmacists

Feast day: May 3

James, the son of Alphaeus, was one of Jesus’ Twelve Apostles. Many scholars believe him to be the same as the James who was a relative of Jesus and leader of the early Church in Jerusalem. The Gospels give few details about James during Jesus’ ministry; but the fact that he answered Jesus’ call to follow him, and witnessed his teachings, miracles, Resurrection, and Ascension tells us a lot!

As the other Apostles traveled throughout the Roman Empire preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ, James was put in charge of the Church in Jerusalem. It was not an easy task, as the Jewish leaders persecuted Jesus’ followers, often violently. James helped lead the Council of Jerusalem, which centered on the question of whether Gentile converts to Christianity had to follow Jewish laws of diet and circumcision. After Peter and Paul presented their views, James presented his judgment: that Gentile converts would be asked to follow certain laws, such as to not eat meat sacrificed to idols and to avoid unlawful marriages, but they would not have to follow every dietary or ritual law of Judaism (see Acts 15:129).

James was stoned to death in the year 62, when the Sanhedrin accused him and other believers of violating Jewish laws. James refused to renounce his belief in Jesus Christ, and was buried outside the temple walls, near the spot where he was martyred.

(Image by Pompeo Batoni, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)