Very early in life, prodigies surrounded Blessed James, for on the day of his birth three brilliant stars, each containing the image of a friar preacher, appeared in the sky over Bevagna. Children ran through the streets crying : “To the schools! To the schools! behold the new masters heaven is sending us !” The three preachers were later understood to be James, Blessed Ambrose of Siena, and St. Thomas Aquinas.
James was given a good education and was carefully trained in the ways of holiness. The power of his prayers was seen early. When still a small child, he brought about peace between two quarreling families. At the age of sixteen, he met the Dominicans. Two friars had come to preach in his native city during Lent. Deciding, after much prayer, that God was calling him to the Dominican apostolate, he went home with the two missioners and began his novitiate.
The early promises of his great learning were well fulfilled. In and age that shone with the brilliance of Albert, Thomas and Bonaventure, the preaching of James of Bevagna was still remarkable. He was particularly gifted at reconciling enemies and bringing peace to warring families and cities.
James was very severe with himself, particularly in the matter of poverty. On one occasion, his mother, shocked at the poor condition of the habit he was wearing, gave money to buy a new one. As he wanted very much more to get a crucifix for his cell, he did so. His mother reminded him that the money was given for clothing. James replied with the text, “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ,” assuring her that this was the garment he had bought with her gift.
At another time, praying before the same crucifix, James was overcome with a sense of his own unworthiness and begged of God some sign that his soul was to be saved. Blood gushed from the hands and side of the figure on the cross, and a voice from heaven told him that his token of God’s favor would reassure him. Some of the miraculous blood was preserved for more than two centuries. Kept at the tomb of Blessed James, it worked many miracles, but it was stolen by heretics.
Forewarned of the hour of his death, James was assured that Our Lady would come to meet him, because he had often sacrificed to adorn her altars. She came at the time foretold, and James went happily with her into the presence of God.
Born: Bevagna in Umbria, Italy in 1220
Died: 1301 at Mevania, Italy of natural causes
Beatification: 1400 (Cultus confirmed) by pope Boniface IX; again on May 18, 1672 (cultus confirmed) by Pope Clement X