Saint James the Less, also called the “Just” by the Jews and Christians alike in Jerusalem, was a cousin of Our Lord, for his mother, Mary of Cleophas, was a sister of the Blessed Virgin, and stood with Our Lady beneath the Cross:
“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his Mother, and his Mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen:” (St. John 19; 25.)
Saint James was appointed by Saint Peter as the first bishop of Jerusalem, where be lived for thirty years a life of extraordinary piety and mortification. His energy in preaching Christ crucified awoke the anger of the chief priests, who stood him on the battlements of the Temple and commanded him to denounce Christ. Saint James proclaimed his belief in Christ, and was immediately hurled from the walls of the Temple. As he was still able to rise to his knees, the rabble fell upon him with stones and sticks and a fuller gave him the death blow by hitting him on the head with his mallet (such as was used in dressing cloth.) The fuller’s mallet is his distinctive sign.
Saint James wrote one epistle. Chapter 3 speaks to us all on the evils of the tongue, a chapter we should read and think about often, for as Saint James says: “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man.”
In this epistle also is found the Scriptural authority for Extreme Unction, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick: “Is there any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” (Ch. 4; 14).