James was the son of Zebedee and Salome and the brother of St. John the Evangelist. He, his father, and his brother were fishermen and were out fixing their nets one day when Christ came and called the two sons to be "fishers of men". St. James is called the greater in order to distinguish him from St. James the Lesser who became an apostle after St. James the Greater.
St. James was one of the privileged few, along with his brother John and St. Peter, who were present at the raising of Jairus' daughter, the transfiguration of Our Lord, and during Our Lord's agony in the garden of Gethsemene.
After the assumption of Our Lord, St. James departed to preach the Gospel in Samaria, Judea, and Spain, which he appears to have been especially devoted to.
A popular legend regarding a miracle attributed to St. James tells of the resurrection to life of a boy who had been unjustly hanged. When the boy's father was told, during his supper, about the miracle, the man replied that his son was no more alive than the fowl on the table. The bird promptly stood up, stretched its wings, and flew away.
James and John requested of Our Lord that, in the Kingdom of Heaven, they be permitted to sit on His right and His left. Jesus replied, asking if they were prepared to drink the cup of suffering that He must drink. They replied that they were. It is not surprising then that St. James was the first of the Apostles to be martyred. The Acts of the Apostles records "About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the Church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword."
Legend has it that angels put St. James' body into a rudderless, unattended boat which eventually landed in Spain "where a massive rock closed around it." His relics still remain in Spain.
St. James is the patron saint: against arthritis; against rheumatism; of Altopascio, Lucca, Italy; of Antigua, Guatemala; of apothecaries; of arthritis sufferers; of the diocese of Bangued, Phillipines; of blacksmiths; of Brentino Belluno, Italy; of Caltagirone, Italy; of Cassine, Italy; of Chile; of Cicala, Catanzaro, Italy; of Comitini, Italy; of Compostela, Spain; of druggists; of equestrians; of furriers; of Galicia, Spain; of Gavi, Italy; of Guatemala; of Hettstedt, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany; of horsemen; of Jemez Indian Pueblo; of knights; of laborers; of Loiza, Puerto Rico; of Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina; of Montreal, Canada; of Nicaragua; of pharmacists; of pilgrims; of Pistoia, Italy; of rheumatoid sufferers; of riders; of Rivarolo Canavese, Italy; of Sahuayo, Mexico; of the archdiocese of Seattle, Washington; of soldiers; of Spain; of Spanish conquistadors; of tanners; of Tesuque Indian Pueblo; and of veterinarians.