Saints Philip and James
The Holy Land is the birthplace of our Catholic faith. It was from here, nearly 2,000 years ago, the faith shared first with just twelve disciples, began to spread throughout the world. Through the preaching, witness, and example of these twelve inconspicuous men, billions have come to know the Lord.
But who were these men? And what exactly became of them after the death and resurrection of Jesus? From Scripture, we know that only one, John, was at the foot of the cross. The others ran away, or denied Him, like Peter. Judas even betrayed Him with a kiss! However, all but Judas returned to follow Him again, grew in their faith, and began to form even more disciples.
During the Easter Season, we read from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, all about the amazing beginning of the Catholic Church and what these men and subsequent followers accomplished. On May 3rd, the Church celebrates two of these Apostles: James and Philip.
There were two disciples named James – James the son of Zebedee and brother of John, and James the son of Alphaeus. It is this second James, known as James the Lesser, we honor on the 3rd of May. Not much is known about James, except that he was from the area of Galilee and was chosen specifically by Jesus to be one of His twelve.
More is known about Philip, who was from Bethsaida and companions of Peter and Andrew. Philip was with John the Baptist when he testified about Jesus as the Lamb of God, and was one of the first disciples called by Jesus to follow Him. Philip is mentioned elsewhere in the book of John pointing out the lack of resources to feed the large crowd, paving the way for Jesus to multiply the loaves and fishes. He also asked Jesus to show them the Father, to which Jesus replied, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9). It is also thought that because Philip is a Greek name, he was seen as particularly approachable by Gentiles curious about the Messiah.
James and Philip were both martyred for their beliefs. James, at an old age, was beaten and stoned nearly to death, with a strike to the head from a club dealing the fatal blow. Philip was scourged, thrown in to prison, and crucified in 54 AD after serving as a missionary in Asia. Their witness, preaching, and testimony of Christ’s life, death and resurrection helped spread our faith from its humble beginnings in a small corner of the Holy Land to all corners of the world, following the teachings of Jesus at His Ascension:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20