St James the Greater

Apostle (entered heaven in 44)

Dear Jim,

So the little urchins are getting on your nerves, eh?  Then now is the perfect time to be like Christ.  Your role as a camp counselor is to help those campers mature, grow, and become better human beings.  And since it’s a Catholic camp, that includes helping them discover the dignity and the glory of their vocation in Christ.  They should finish the summer on fire for Christ and his Kingdom.  If right now they aren’t on fire for anything except setting each other on fire, there’s no need to worry.  If they were already in shape, there would be no need for camps, or counselors.  Since they’re not, you’ve got a job – a very Christlike job too, as today’s saint illustrates.

James the Greater was St John the Evangelist’s older brother, one of the three Apostles to whom Jesus gave special attention.  But he was no saint when Christ called him.  As a matter of fact, Jesus nicknamed him and his brother “Sons of Thunder,” which shows you how meek and self-controlled they were.  One time, when a town in Samaria refused to host Christ and the disciples for the night, the brothers asked permission to call down fire and brimstone to demolish the place – how’s that for gentle, sweet piety! (Christ did not grant them the permission, by the way.)  Later on they even approached the Lord (actually, they sent their mother to approach him for them) to request the second and third ranks in his Kingdom.  How’s that for calm and patient humility!

And yet, it was men like these, impetuous and full of passion, whom Christ chose to be his intimate companions and closest collaborators.  Their love for him and their desire to serve him gave them the strength they needed to build virtue by mastering their natural tendencies (I am sure the Holy Spirit helped out a bit as well).  James ended up as the first Apostle to be martyred, and his dignity and self-control in the face of the trumped-up charges leveled against him during the trial so moved the onlookers that his accuser became a Christian on the spot.  As the two walked to their execution together, the convert asked James to forgive him for turning him in.  The Apostle looked at him, said “Peace be with you,” and embraced him – a far cry from the earlier fire and brimstone.

It was Christ’s love, his truth, and above all his example of all the virtues that won over St James and all the other Apostles.  It was the grace of the Holy Spirit that transformed them.  So be like Christ, and constantly pray for the Holy Spirit to come among your campers, and the rest should take care of itself.

Your loving uncle,


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