Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume XI: November. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. James of La Marca of Ancona, Confessor
THE SMALL town of Montbrandon, in the Marca of Ancona, the ancient Picenum, a province of the ecclesiastical state in Italy, gave birth to this saint. His parents, though of low condition, were very virtuous, and educated him in sentiments of true piety and religion. A neighbouring priest taught him Latin, and he was young when he was sent to the university of Perugia, where his progress in learning soon qualified him to be chosen preceptor to a young gentleman of Florence. This students father, who was a magistrate of that city, was much taken with the virtue and prudence of our saint, engaged him to accompany his son to Florence, and procured him a considerable post in that republic. St. James observed, that in the hurry of worldly business men easily forget to converse sufficiently with God and themselves, and that shutting themselves up in it, they become part of that vortex which hurries time and the world away without looking any further: also, that whilst we hear continually the discourse of men, we are apt insensibly to take in, and freight ourselves with the vices of men. Against these dangers, persons who live in the world, must use the antidote of conversing much with God. This James did by assiduous prayer and recollection, in which exercises he found such charms that he resolved to embrace a religious and penitential life. These were the dispositions of his soul when, travelling near Assisium, he went into the great church of the Portiuncula to pray, and being animated by the fervour of the holy religious men who there served God, and by the example of their blessed founder St. Francis, he determined to petition in that very place for the habit of the Order. The brethren received him with open arms, and he was sent to perform his novitiate in a small austere convent near Assisium, called, Of the Prisons. He began his spiritual war against the devil, the world, and the flesh, with assiduous prayer, and extraordinary fasts and watchings: and the fervour of his first beginnings was, by his fidelity in corresponding with divine grace, crowned with such constancy and perseverance as never to suffer any abatement. After the year of his probation was completed he returned to the Portiuncula, and by his solemn vows offered himself a holocaust to God. For forty years he never passed a day without taking the discipline; he always wore either a rough hair shirt, or an iron coat of mail armed with short sharp spikes; allowing himself only three hours for sleep he spent the rest of the night in holy meditation and prayer: flesh meat he never touched, and he ate so little that it seemed a miracle how he could live. He said mass every day with wonderful devotion. Out of a true spirit of humility and penance he was a great lover of poverty, and it was a subject of joy to him to see himself often destitute of the most necessary things. He copied for himself most of the few books he allowed himself the use of, and he always wore a mean threadbare habit. His purity during the course of his whole life was spotless; and he shunned as much as possible all conversation with persons of the other sex, and made this very short, when it was necessary for their spiritual direction; and he never looked any woman in the face. In the practice of obedience he was so exact, that, once having received an order to go abroad, when he had lifted up the cup near his mouth to drink he set it down again, and went out immediately without drinking; for he was afraid to lose the merit of obedience by the least delay.
His zeal for the salvation of souls seemed to have no bounds, and for forty years together he never passed a single day without preaching the word of God either to the people or to the religious of his own Order. His exhortations were vehement and efficacious; by one sermon at Milan he converted thirty-six lewd women to a most fervent course of penance. Being chosen archbishop of that city he fled, and being taken he prevailed by entreaties and persuasions to be allowed to pursue his call in the functions of a private religious missionary. He accompanied St. John Capistran in some of his missions in Germany, Bohemia, and Hungary, and was sent thrice by the popes Eugenius IV. Nicholas V. and Calixtus III. into this last kingdom. He wrought several miracles at Venice, and at other places, and raised from dangerous sicknesses the duke of Calabria, and king of Naples. A question was at that time agitated with great warmth, particularly between the Franciscan and Dominican friars, whether the precious blood of Christ, which was separated from the body during his passion, remained always hypostatically united to the Divine Word; and St. James was accused in the inquisition of having advanced the negative: but was dismissed with honour. The saint died of a most painful cholic in the convent of the Holy Trinity of his Order, near Naples, on the 28th of November, in the year 1476, being ninety years old, of which he had spent seventy in a religious state. His body is enshrined in a rich chapel which bears his name in the church called our Ladys the New, at Naples. He was beatified by Urban VIII. and canonized in 1726, by Benedict XIII. who had been himself an eye-witness to a miracle performed in favour of a person who had recourse to his intercession. See his life by Mark of Lisbon, bishop of Porto, and and in verse by Sanazar; also the life of Benedict XIII. by Touron, t. 6.