St. James, the Pillar and the shell.

I like Mary Salome who doesn’t get much notice in Scripture. I imagine she was a good, hard-working wife of a fisherman. I think her husband Zebedee was most likely dead by the time her kinsman Jesus began His mission, as she was able to follow Him and help take care of Him and His followers, including her two sons, James and John. Jesus named them Sons of Thunder. They, along with Peter were the only apostles to be given a name by Jesus. In Jewish tradition that’s important.

At the foot of the cross Mary Salome stood with the other three Mary’s and her son John. Jesus gave John to His mother and we can be sure Mary Salome was happy with that.

After Pentecost James took none companions and went on a missionary journey to Spain. He brought the people the Gospel and the people were completely disinterested in what he had to say. He was disheartened and went to the Lord in prayer. Jesus heard the prayer of His dear friend and sent His Blessed Mother to help James.

She appeared to him standing on a pillar of jasper, held by angels, and holding a wooden statue. She gave the pillar and statue to James and asked that a church be built. James did as she asked and built a small chapel where she had appeared to him. That is now the great basilica of Santiago de Compostela, probably the most visited pilgrimage site in the world.

His vision of the Blessed Mother is the earliest one ever recorded and as it happened while she was still alive on earth it is considered the earliest known case of a saint bilocating. (St. Pio is probably the most well know saint who did this).

James returned to Jerusalem where he was martyred in 44 AD. His disciples took his body back to Spain and had a grave made for him there. He has been denied burial in Jerusalem.

What about the clam shell symbol? There is a legend – which may be true- that a knight was taken by his runaway horse and plunged into the sea, armour and all. He cried out to Saint James to save him and immediately floated on the water. A wave washed him back to shore and he found he was covered in clam shells. So the symbol stuck (if you’ll excuse the pun).

Anyway, on this feast of St. James I can’t help thinking of his mother Mary Salome sitting in heaven with a smile on her face as her boys, the Sons of Thunder, did good.


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