Monthly Message August 2013
July 25th sees the feast day of one of our parochial Patron Saints – that of Devauden – James the Great, the apostle of Jesus and brother of St John.
Depictions of St James in stained glass or statuary ( I can think of a particularly fine example in a friend’s parish church in the West Midlands) picture him as a pilgrim, staff in one hand, the scroll of the Gospel in the other, wearing a broad brimmed hat and a cloak often decorated with a scallop shell.
St James was the first of Our Lord’s apostles to suffer a martyr’s death: The Acts of the Apostles tells us that King Herod Agrippa “laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the Church. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword.”
Yet a long-established tradition also speaks of James witnessing to Christ’s resurrection in Spain, at the other end of Roman Empire. Another tradition has it that his body was taken by his followers from Jerusalem for burial in what has become the city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.
From the time of the early middle ages, Compostela became the focus of great popular devotion, as pilgrims from all walks of life travelled from all over Europe (and now beyond) to venerate the burial place of St James, Christ’s apostle. Famous pilgrims over the centuries have included St Francis of Assisi, Spanish kings and queens and many artists and poets, yet it was always very much a pilgrimage for everyone, walking the route for many reasons, hoping to deepen their lives of prayer and to return to a closer following of Christ.
The pilgrimage still goes on; in fact, it is probably more popular now than at any time since the sixteenth century.
I will be walking the Way of St James, beginning in early September, as a spiritual journey, but also to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, from whose care and help many of us, or those close to us, have benefitted over the years, and to help St Arvans parish funds after the very fine restoration work which is now nearing completion.
You will find details of how to support the walk, or even to join it for all or part of the way, later in this edition of Fiveways.
The Way of St James, like the apostle who has inspired it, speaks to us of an willingness to walk with Christ in our daily lives, to witness to the truth of the Resurrection and the new life promised to all of us who follow him. Perhaps in the end it’s not the exterior journey which is important, but the interior journey we are all called to make in our hearts and minds and lives.