Saturday, September 30, 2017

Who is Saint James?

Who is Saint James? Why is there a pilgrimage named after him? And why am I walking the pilgrimage?

Here's a short backstory.

The simple explanation for the notoriety of James is that he was one of the twelves Disciples/Apostles of Jesus. He was born as the son of Zebedee and Salome, so he is often referred to as James of Zebedee. He had a brother name John who also became one of the twelve Apostles. Zebedee and his sons lived in the tiny fishing village of Capernaum located along the Sea of Galilee; and it was here that they made their living by fishing. Also, it was near the Sea of Galilee where Jesus met James and John and offered to teach them how to be fishermen of men.

He was one of Jesus' first disciples and was present during many of Jesus's teachings and miracles. Following Jesus's crucifixion, James became one of the most vocal advocates of sharing the Christian Gospel across Israel, the Roman Empire and for nearly forty years in Spain.
James became a victim of King Herod Agrippa’s wrath in 44 AD when the King, intent on maintaining his popularity, had him killed. This was during the time when the Christian church had begun to grow in numbers and the authorities had become very wary and antagonistic towards the expansion of the church. 
As he was not allowed to be buried following his martyrdom, his remains were taken to Compostela, Spain, by some of his followers, who buried him. In the ninth century his remains were discovered and moved to a tomb in the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. 
The English name James comes from the Italian name Giacomo. Giacomo is derived from the Latin name Iacobus. In the Spanish Galician dialect Iacobus became Iagois.  So the Sanctu Iacobus in Italian became Santiagois in Galician and Santiago in Spanish. 

El Camino de Santiago or The Way of St. James was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during the Middle Ages. However, the Black Death, the Protestant Reformation, and political unrest in 16th century Europe led to its decline. By the 1980s, only a few pilgrims per year arrived in Santiago. In October 1987, the route was declared the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe; it was also named one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. Since the 1980s the route has attracted a growing number of modern-day international pilgrims.

So why am I walking El Camino?

Like many things, my reason for setting out on this venture is a multifaceted one. Part of me is attracted to the recreational aspect of hiking a long distance. Part of me is interested in the social aspect of many individuals from various backgrounds sharing in a common experience. And there is a part of me that believes - that in a complicated world with tragic natural disasters, increasing humanitarian crises, an apparent decline in civility and a growing lack of hope - that a simple walk or pilgrimage can rejuvenate my and other's faith, hope and love.

So I walk and invite you to walk alongside me.

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