Saint James the Less (the Younger), author of the canonical Epistle, was the son of Alpheus, the brother of Saint Jude and a cousin of Our Lord, whom he is said to have resembled. Saint Paul tells us that he was favored by a special apparition of Christ after the Resurrection. (I Corinthians 15:7) On the dispersion of the Apostles among the nations, Saint James remained as Bishop of Jerusalem, where the Jews held in such high veneration his purity, mortification, and prayer, that they named him the Just. He governed that church for 30 years before his martyrdom.
Hegesippus, the earliest of the Church’s historians, has handed down many traditions of Saint James’s sanctity. Saint James was a celibate Nazarite consecrated to God; he drank no wine and wore no sandals. He prostrated himself so long and so often in prayer that the skin of his knees was hardened like a camel’s hoof. It is said that the Jews, out of respect, used to touch the hem of his garment. He was indeed a living proof of his own words, The wisdom that is from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, modest, ready to listen, full of mercy and good fruits. (James 3:17) He sat beside Saint Peter and Saint Paul at the Council of Jerusalem. When Saint Paul at a later time escaped the fury of the Jews by appealing to Caesar, the people took vengeance on James, and crying out, The just one has erred! stoned him to death. During his martyrdom he prayed for his persecutors in the same words pronounced by Jesus: Heavenly Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.