November 27, 2017

St. James of the Marches, Defender of the Faith

St. James of the Marches

Feast Day - November 28th  

To call Saint James of the Marches zealous is an understatement. He was born James Gangala into a poor family at Monteprandone, a small town in eastern Italy, in the year 1394. He is called "St. James of the Marches" because he was from the March, or coast of the Adriatic Sea. His personal piety, prayerfulness and powerful sermons in defense of the Faith won innumerable souls to Christ.

His lowly origins did not prevent him from studying at the University of Perugia, where he earned doctorates in both civil and canon law. He then went to study theology with Saint John of Capistrano and, at age 22, joined the Franciscans at Assisi. His entry into said Order occurred thusly: When traveling one day near Assisi, James entered the Church of the Portiuncula to pray. Moved by the fervor of the holy men who served God there and by the example of their founder Saint Francis, he petitioned in that very place for the habit of the Order. James soon became known for following a particularly austere way of life, so much so that fellow Franciscan, Saint Bernardine of Siena, cautioned him toward moderation.

St. James of the Marches' zeal enabled him to become a persuasive preacher. In his lifetime, he traveled throughout Italy and thirteen other countries, converting nearly a quarter of a million people. In 1426, he and St. John of Capistrano were named Inquisitors against the Fraticelli, proponents of a Franciscan rule that was so extreme they were eventually declared heretical by the solemn decree of Pope Martin V.  James himself tangled with the Dominican Inquisitors over a sermon he preached in Brescia, Italy, in 1462, but no decision was rendered in the case.

Various miracles are credited to his ministry. Msgr. Paul Guérin writes: "At Buda he effected the miraculous cessation of a furious sedition by simply showing the crucifix to the people; the rebels themselves took him upon their shoulders and carried him through the streets of the city. At Prague he brought back to God many who had fallen into error, and when a magician wanted to dispute [the future saint], he rendered him mute and thus obliged him to retire in confusion."

In the Franciscan convent of the Holy Trinity near Naples, to which city the Holy Father had sent him at the behest of King Ferdinand, St. James of the Marches died on November 28, 1476. He was 90 years old, having spent seventy of those years in complete service to God. He was beatified by Pope Urban VIII in 1624, and canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. The saint's earthly remains were translated to Monteprandone, where his incorrupt body is visible to the public. St. James of the Marches, pray that our faithful witness will bring others to God.

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