My patron saint: St. James

I suppose my patron saint should be St. Ronan, an Irish Saint whose journey to Brittany and subsequent miracles make him a figure of minor celebrity in Celtic Christianity. With a middle name of James, I can also turn to James the Just, brother of Jesus, or James the Great, son of Zebedee (he of the Camino de Santiago), or the “other James” (son of Alphaeus). Regular readers of the blog will know of our experience on the road to Santiago, and so James the Great it shall be.

The concept of a patron Saint may at first seem alien to Mormons, but as I have argued previously, the veneration of Saints is indeed part of Mormonism. To choose a Saint as one’s “patron” seems partly to me to see in a  fellow Christian something desirable, something worth emulating. In James’s case, it is his overwhelming desire to be with his Lord and to “drink his cup” (Matt 20: 20-28). For James, this meant martyrdom (he was “killed with the sword” — Acts 11:27-12:3), the first of the Twelve to die.

This is not to say that we should seek death, for such is the nihilism of the religious fanatic. James did not want to die: his prayer in the face of Herod’s persecution no doubt echoed the Psalm (“O Lord my God, in you I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers, and deliver me”). However, God’s promise to Baruch that his life would be spared despite the woe that is Israel’s (Jeremiah 45:1-5) was manifested for James not in salvation from earthly death, but in the promise of eternal life.

I spent a lot of time on the Camino pondering the meaning of the myth of St. James’s miraculous, posthumous journey to Iberia. After his death in Jerusalem, his body was taken up by angels, and sailed in an unattended boat to Iberia where a rock closed around his relics. It is a splendid allegory of our own eternal journey in the company of angels to the enclosing “rock of our Redeemer” (Helaman 5:12). In venerating his relics in Compostela I was not experiencing the magic of a historically dubious collection of bones, but mystical communion with a fellow traveller who now sits on the right hand of God.

There is no greater desire, and so with the scallop shell on my pack, I choose James as my patron.




Mormon Lectionary Project

The Feast of St. James (the Great)

Jeremiah 45:1-5Acts 11:27-12:3Matthew 20:20-28Psalm 7:1-10; Helaman 5:12

The Collect: O gracious God, we remember before you today your servant and apostle James, first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the Name of Jesus Christ; and we pray that you will pour out upon the leaders of your Church that spirit of self-denying service by which they may inspire your people to tread the way of Christ; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


  1. I love this, thank you Ronan. You’ve given me something to ponder today

  2. And amen.

  3. It has been a difficult week, and I needed this today. Some things do not get better in this life, but that does not mean that we don’t have hope, and keep going on in faith.

  4. MargaretOH says:

    Lovely. One of my favorite books is My Life With the Saints, by Fr. James Martin. It really got me thinking about who I would like for my patron saint. Since then, different saints have inspired me at various times in my life. They offer the wisdom of having gone before and having found God in that place. I need as much of that as I can get.

  5. Interesting idea. I suspect you are not going to pray to St James to intercede for you, but certainly as a role model and focus for religious study. You could do much worse than St James — good choice! I’ve admired St. Boniface of Querfurt for some years, but haven’t “elevated” him to being my patron saint yet.

  6. No, I don’t imagine I would pray to St. James but I don’t think that concept is as wholly un-Protestant as it sounds. See here:

    “Because Christ is the great Intercessor, many Protestants are uneasy with the concept of the intercession of saints. One prays to the Father through Christ, and that is that. However, this is to misunderstand the nature of prayer. Prayers of adoration are only for the Godhead, but to pray for intercession to the saints is simply to ask them to carry your prayers to God alongside your own petitions. Mormons constantly ask others to pray for them, suggesting a belief that other people’s prayers can somehow make the prayer more efficacious. The temple roll is a prime example of this and suggests that the saintliness of temple patrons can speed our petitions to God.”

  7. In other words, to pray to St. James would be to ask him to pray for you, which is something we ask living people to do all the time. The only difference is that he’s dead, which in a Gospel sense is irrelevant.

  8. I think I would choose Saint Porter (aka Orrin P. Rockwell) for my patron saint.

  9. Chad Too says:

    St. Chad seems like a nice-enough guy… he has a cathedral in Birmingham and mostly stuck to central England (if my research on Mercia has not led me astray). I’ll choose him, though I must admit that I read the Wiki page about him in my head in a not-very-reverent-but-very-Monty-Pythonesque voice.

  10. Jason K. says:

    Thanks for this, Ronan. May St. James be with you on your current pilgrimage.

  11. I enjoy teaching hagiography in my medieval British literature class at BYU. My students are surprised to discover the similarities between medieval saints’ lives and Mormon stories about pioneers, prophets, every day faithful saints, etc. My favorite English saint is St. Cuthbert, bishop of Lindisfarne from 684 to 687.