St. Philip and St. James, Apostles
St. Philip was born at Bethsaida, a city near the Sea of Genesareth. What we know concerning him is contained in the following words of the Gospel: One day, as Christ our Lord was going to Galilee, he met Philip and said to him: “Follow me.” Philip unhesitatingly obeyed, and as, after a long conversation with Christ, he became convinced that He was the true, long-promised Messiah, he endeavored to lead others also to Him. Among the first of these was Nathaniel, an upright man and well versed in the law of God. After some time, Christ appointed Philip an Apostle, and he was extremely zealous in the fulfilment of his duties. Before the Saviour fed, with five loaves of bread, the five thousand men in the desert, he had asked Philip: “Where shall we buy bread that they may have to eat?” Philip replied: “Bread for two hundred pence is not sufficient to give each one a small piece.” Christ, however, showed that He did not need so much to feed the assembled multitudes. After Christ had raised Lazarus from the dead, and had made His glorious entry into Jerusalem, some heathens came to Philip and said: ” Sir, we would see Jesus.” Philip informed the Apostle Andrew of it, and both acquainted the Saviour with the request. When Our Lord, in His exhortation after the last supper, spoke of His heavenly father, Philip said; “Lord, show us the Father, and it will suffice us.” In addition to the above, tradition gives us the following of the life and labors of this Saint. When, after having received the Holy Ghost, the Apostles dispersed into the world to preach the Gospel, Scythia, still wild and savage, fell to the lot of Philip, and by his preaching and the wonders he wrought, he converted almost all its inhabitants. Thence he went to Phrygia, where he found in the Capital, Hierapolis, an unusually large dragon, which the blind heathens worshipped as their God, and even cast as sacrifices living human beings before it, whom it tore in pieces and devoured. The Saint had deep compassion upon their blindness, and prayed to God upon bended knees, to destroy the monster by His power, that the people might recognize how wretched a God they had worshipped until now. What the Holy Apostle asked for he received. The dragon burst asunder in the presence of many heathens. The Saint, improving the opportunity, disclosed to the assembled multitude their error, and preached to them the true faith, which many readily embraced. The idolatrous priests and some of the magistrates, much incensed at what had taken place with their pretended god, gave no respite to Philip, but immediately seized him, and threw him into a dungeon: then, after having most cruelly scourged him, they hung him upon a cross with orders to stone him to death. During his martyrdom, however, there was so terrible an earthquake, that all the heathens ran away in affright. The Christians wished to take the Saint from the cross, but he requested to be allowed to die upon it, after the example of his divine Master. His wish was complied with, and after he had most fervently recommended himself and the newly converted Christians to the care of the Almighty, he gave up the ghost.
It ought not to be passed in silence that this Apostle in the above epistle distinctly makes, mention of, first, the Holy Sacrament of Extreme Unction which should be given to the sick. His own words I shall give somewhere else. Secondly, he speaks of the confession which one man should make to another; that is, to a priest. Both these show that Extreme Unction and Confession were already practised by the early Christians, and were not, as the non-Catholics wrongly and foolishly pretend, instituted or commanded by the Popes. Holy Writ says also that St. James was present at the first Council which was held in Jerusalem, and that he was of the opinion of St. Peter, not to oblige the newly-converted Christians to observe the old Mosaic ceremonies.
Meanwhile, the Scribes and Pharisees noticing the daily growth of the Christian faith in Jerusalem and all Judea, and not knowing how to prevent it, determined to persuade St. James, by flatteries and promises, to renounce the teachings of Christ and go back to the old laws. Ananus, at that time High Priest, summoned him, therefore, to the grand Council. After he had praised his virtue and piety, he requested him to exhort the people, who, on account of the Passover, were assembled at Jerusalem in great numbers, to leave the new heresy and once more return to the right path. St. James promised to show them all publicly the true path to salvation. He was accordingly led upon the battlement of the Temple that his voice might be better heard by the assembled multitude. The Scribes, who were standing among them, called up to him: ” Tell us, thou just man, what shall we think of the crucified Christ, because we will believe thy words. Show us the right path wherein we should walk.” The Apostle, raising his voice, said; “Hear, my brethren, the proofs which I give of the truth. The Crucified Jesus Christ is the Messiah whom our fathers so long hoped for, so long expected. He is the true Son of God who sits now on His right hand, until He shall return to judge the living and the dead. Whosoever believeth in Him cannot be lost.” This and more the Saint fearlessly said in order to preach and defend the teaching of the Gospel. Many of those present applauded him and showed themselves ready to accept the teachings of Christ. The Pharisees, however, running hither and thither among the people, said: “Dear friends, this just man has erred; be not troubled. It is not as he says.” At the same time some of them hastened upon the pinnacle of the Temple, whence the Saint had, with such undaunted courage, proclaimed his confession, and precipitated him to the ground. St. James, having raised himself upon his knees, lifted his eyes and hands to heaven, and in imitation of his divine Master, said: “Lord forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The Jews, however, threw stones upon him, and one with a heavy club struck him on the head so that he sank dead upon the ground.
As soon as Philip had come to the knowledge that Christ was the true Messiah, he endeavored to bring others to Him and make them also acquainted with His word. Have you, at any time during your life, brought any one to Christ, or to the knowledge of His word and to His love? Or, have you not on the contrary, led many a one to Satan and persuaded him to serve the Evil One. The first took place when you, by your good example or kind words, converted any one to the true faith, or moved him to repentance, or confession, or to hear holy Mass, and the word of God, or to have patience under adversity, or to any other Christian virtue. The second happened when you, by word or deed, enticed others to evil, or confirmed them in evil doing. If you have been guilty of the last, oh, repent, as long as you live, of the wickedness that you have caused, and leave nothing untried to bring the soul, which you delivered to Satan, back to Christ. Should it, however, be too late, endeavor earnestly to lead other souls to Christ by your pious life, devout conversation, and fervent prayer. You can do nothing more pleasing to God, nothing of greater service to yourself and your neighbor. “If any of you err from the truth, and one convert him, he must know that he who causeth a sinner to be converted from the error of his way shall save his soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins” (James vi.).
Thus speaks St. James. But what says the Eternal Truth of those who prevent others from the knowledge of Christ and try to strengthen them in their errors as did the Pharisees? “But woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men: for you yourselves do not enter in, and those that are going in, you suffer not to enter” (Matt, xxiii.). A still greater woe awaits those who lead others away from Christ and heaven, and bring them to Satan and hell.
II. St. James, in imitation of the Saviour, prayed even for his bitterest enemies. Shall the noble example of your Saviour make less impression upon you? Consider it well. Your Saviour prayed aloud upon the holy Cross for those who caused him infinitely more suffering than your enemies have caused you, and will you hesitate to pray for them? Shame on you! Cast at once all hesitation aside, and offer today all your prayers to God for those who have ever done you any harm. At the same time promise your Omniscient God that you will forgive all, without any exception, for anything by which they have wronged you. This is one of the surest means to gain from God remission of your own sins. “If you desire that God would forgive you your sin, forgive your enemies,” says St. Chrysostom. Christ our Lord says Himself: “For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences” (Matt. vi.). Comforting words! But terrible those which he adds: ” But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences ” (Matt. vi.). Now consider. You doubtless wish that God would forgive you, if you forgive others, but He will not forgive you if you do not forgive others: hence you will have to forgive your enemies, or go into everlasting fire. Which is the easier of the two? What do you resolve to do? You daily say, in the Lord’s prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses.” With these words you beg God to forgive your sins. But you add, following Christ’s teaching: “As we forgive them that trespass against us,” which means: as you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, so you wish God may forgive you your sins. Pay attention: if you do not forgive your enemy, you yourself ask that God may also not forgive you your sins, but condemn you to endless punishment; you yourself prevent the forgiveness of your sins, and with it, eternal happiness.
Should not your hair stand on end if you consider this rightly? “How can you,” says St. Chrysostom, “raise your hands to heaven, and open your lips to ask forgiveness of your sins? Because if God were willing to pardon your offences, you prevent him from doing so, as long as you nourish bitter feeling towards your neighbor.” And St. Anastasius says: “If you do not forgive the wrong done to you, you do not say a prayer for yourself, but draw the curse of God on your head when you say : Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.” You will now easily understand your duty on this point.
Lives of the Saints: Compiled from Authentic Sources with a Practical Instruction on the Life of Each Saint, for Every Day in the Year by Rev. F. X. Weninger. Permissu Superiorum. New York: P. O’Shea, Publisher, 67 Barclay Street and 42 Park Place. 1876.