James the Greater was the brother of John, the beloved apostle. They were the sons of Zebedee and Salome, and like their father, the brothers were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. James and John were together when Jesus called them and their friends Simon and Andrew, to be "fishers of men." James and John together were called the "Sons of Thunder", by our Lord.
Among the 12 apostles, James held a special place. He was there when Jesus raised Jairus' daughter from the dead; he was present at the transfiguration along with John and Peter; and he slept in the Garden of Gethesemane.
James was the first of the apostles to be martyred. (Acts 12:1)
James did drink of the cup Jesus drank of, all too shortly after the King Herod Agrippa I killed him with a sword in an early persecution of the Church. There is a story that the man who arrested James became a convert after hearing James speak at his trial and was executed with him.
Legend has it that before his execution, James preached in Spain. It is said he is the patron of pilgrims to the Holy Land, because he returned to the Holy Land after preaching in Spain, and he was beheaded on his return.
James is the patron of hat makers. The scallop-shell is very prevalent on the shores of Palestine, so pilgrims would take these shells home and put display them on their hats to show that they had made a piligrimage to the Holy Lands. St. James will frequently be portrayed as a pilgrim with a staff and with a scalloped shell.
This is the day to try oysters on the half shell! or maybe stuffed shells for dinner! or try some fun shell crafts!