In the month of May, the Church celebrates two more of Jesus’ Apostles — Philip and James. While we can readily find references to Philip in the Gospels, James was a common name and we know that there were at least two, and possibly four, disciples of the Lord who were called James. On this feast, however, the Church has traditionally coupled the disciple James, known as “the Less”, with St. Philip.

Let us look first at some references to Philip in the Gospel of John. We know that he came from Bethsaida, the same town in Galilee as Peter and his brother, Andrew, and most likely knew both of them. In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, John the Baptist, who had already encountered Jesus at the Jordan River and knows who He is, identifies Him to his own followers as “the Lamb of God” and first Andrew, then Peter, leave everything to follow the Lord.   Jesus then goes on to call Philip by name; Philip, in turn, summons Nathanial

The next time we read of Philip, he has apparently been wit Jesus for some time but, as we shall see, he still has a great deal to learn about who Jesus really is. In the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, we encounter the story of the multiplication of loaves, and Jesus, who John indicates was “test(ing) Philip”, asked his young disciple “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” Philip took Jesus quite literally and replied — and we can almost hear the incredulity in his voice — “Two hundred days wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.” We learn two things from this exchange; first is the magnitude of the miracle that is about to take place and second, that understanding came slowly to even Jesus’ closest disciples. This theme is echoed in John 14 when Jesus, at the Last Supper, says to Philip, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?”

The James referred to on this feast day was the son of Alphaeus; he has been called “the Less” to distinguish him from the Apostle James “the Greater” who was the son of Zebedee. We do not find many references to him in Scripture, but in Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13, he is listed among the Twelve Apostles. Outside of Scripture, contemporary tradition holds that he became a bishop in the Church in Jerusalem. Known now as “the Just”, he did not partake of either wine or strong drink and may in fact have been a vegetarian.

Despite a slow start, both disciples eventually came to an understanding of just who Jesus was and who they had to be as His followers. Both were martyred in the first century, Philip in Greece and James in Jerusalem. The patrons of Uruguay, their feast day is May 3.

Sources for this article include:

Camerlynck, Achille. “St. James the Less.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.

Kirsch, Johann Peter. “St. Philip the Apostle.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911.

“Saint James the Lesser.” CatholicSaints.Info. May 10, 2018.

“Saint Philip the Apostle“. CatholicSaints.Info. May 10, 2018.