Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint James, surnamed Intercisus

detail of an icon of Saint James Intercisus, date and artist unknown; swiped from Saint e BeatiArticle

Saint James, who received the surname Intercisus because he was cut to pieces for his faith, was by birth a Persian, but by faith a Christian, born of Christian parents. On account of his extraordinary talent and amiability, he was a great favorite of King Isdegerdes. The only thing that displeased the king, who was a heathen, and an enemy of the Christians, was that James professed Christianity and did not recognize the false gods. Hence the king endeavored to make him faithless to his religion, and by -flatteries and promises at length conquered James, so that he went to the idolatrous temple, and, by sacrificing to the idols, denied the Christian faith. The pious mother and the wife of James were horrified at this unexpected and wicked apostasy; they wept bitterly, and prayed incessantly to the Almighty to enlighten the unhappy man, and move him to do penance. To leave nothing undone to make him return to the true Church, they also sent him a letter in which they represented to him the enormity of his crime, and the blindness that must have fallen upon him, when, in order not to lose the favor of a mortal monarch, he voluntarily forfeited the grace of the King of Kings, and feared the displeasure of a man more than that of the Almighty. In conclusion they said: “As you hast faithlessly forsaken the true God, we renounce thee and all conversation with thee for ever. Say no more that you belong to us; for we do not wish either to hear of thee or ever again to see thee.” While reading this letter, James was deeply touched, and tears rolled down his cheeks. “If my mother and my wife thus cast me from them, and will acknowledge me no longer,” said he, with great emotion, “how then will God act, whom I have so greatly offended? And what will the grace of the king avail me, if I have an enemy in the Almighty?” Hardly had these words passed his lips, when such remorse for his sin oppressed his heart, that he cursed the hour in which he became faithless to his God. Having, on his knees, begged pardon of the Almighty, with streaming eyes, he declared publicly that he would rather lose the king’s grace, his honors, and his possessions, nay, even his own life, than remain one moment longer in the guilt of idolatry. To all who came to him he confessed, without any hesitation, that he had done wrong, and desired now to live and die as a Christian. The king, who had been informed of the change that had taken place in James, called him into his presence, and asked him if what had been reported was true. “Yes,” answered the penitent man, “it is true; I did great wrong, when, to please you, I denied my God and abandoned the true faith. I repent of it from the depth of my heart, and detest my fault. I am a Christian, and desire to live and die as such.” The king said everything that he thought would influence James not to return to the Christian religion, but when he saw that all was in vain, he threatened to torture him in an unprecedented manner. James, strengthened by the grace of God, said fearlessly: “No martyrdom can be thought of or invented that I am not willing to suffer, as well to atone for the sin of which I have been guilty, as also to manifest the love I bear in my heart towards the true God.” Immediately was the order issued to cut one limb after the other from the dauntless confessor of Christ, in order that he might die a slow and painful death. The executioners fulfilled the order with indescribable cruelty. They first cut off one finger of his right hand, then the others one after another. Then they did the same with his left hand and with the toes of his feet. This done, they cut off one hand after the other; next, the arms and feet, and to make the torture still more unendurable, they were very slow and paused several times. The holy martyr was, however, undaunted, and raising his eyes towards heaven, prayed for the pardon of his sin and for strength to endure his suffering. He also exclaimed many times, with a loud voice, that he lived and died a Christian; until at last the sword ended his life and his terrible martyrdom. Many present were so deeply moved by the heroism of this follower of the Saviour, that they embraced the Christian faith.

Practical Considerations

Although Saint James had long been a faithful follower of the true faith, and had not thought of leaving it, he nevertheless became an apostate to please the king. The same has been the case with many others. There are persons who, when they have refrained from sin for some time and have tried to serve God, imagine that they are steeled against all temptations, no longer in danger of offending God, and sure of salvation. The result of this is frequently that they venture too far into danger and most disgracefully fall. May you, my reader, learn from the life of Saint James, that no one should trust too much in himself or in his own strength, though he may have served God many years and avoided sin. So long as life lasts, we may daily fall and daily sin. “Though a man be ever so holy, he must never think himself sure of not falling,” says Saint Ephrem. Saint Theodoret writes: “Say not to me: I have grown old in virtue, I fear not; for a fall must ever be feared.” Satan has drawn many who had grown gray in virtue, into the abyss of vice and damnation. Saint Augustine writes that he had seen men who in their holiness seemed to have reached the stars, and yet fell so deeply into vice that they perished in it. Hence man should not trust too much in his own strength; but mindful of his weakness, he ought daily to pray to God for grace and help. Mistrust of one’s self, trust in God, and daily prayer, are three things necessary to every human being. It was fortunate that Saint James so soon came to the knowledge of his fault, that he repented of it, and atoned for it by a public confession, and by so heroically bearing his dreadful martyrdom. Oh! that all those would follow his example, who have come to a disgraceful fall, either by the temptation of Satan or by that of wicked men.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint James, surnamed Intercisus”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 31 May 2018. Web. 20 February 2019. <>