Blessed James of Viterbo, bishop
James was born in the Italian city of Viterbo around the year 1255. In 1270 he joined the recently founded Augustinian Order in his native city. He excelled in his studies and was sent to the leading university of the time, Paris, where he was first an outstanding student and later as a noted professor. On returning to Italy for a short period as a young priest James exercised the apostolate and gained a reputation for learning and holiness of life. Soon he was back in Paris to continue higher studies for the title of Master.
Eventually he was to become successor to his old teacher Giles of Rome, the foremost Augustinian theologian of the early days of the Order and who had himself been a pupil of Thomas Aquinas at Paris. James then served for seven years as regent of studies and director of the Order’s international house of studies in Paris. He earned a solid academic reputation especially for his work «Christian Government», the earliest known formal treatise on the Church.
As a member of the Order’s General Chapter of 1300 in Naples a famous incident is recounted of James. A misunderstanding arose between himself, the learned Paris master, and the Prior General of the time (Blessed) Augustine of Tarano. Though probably in the right James submitted so humbly to the voice of authority in the Order that he left a lasting impression on the Chapter Fathers.
In 1302 Pope Boniface VIII recognised James’ abilities and holiness by naming him bishop of Benevento. Little over a year later he was made archbishop of Naples where he would be particularly remembered for completing the reconstruction of the cathedral.
James died in Naples in 1308. Soon his cult developed though it was only confirmed by Pope Pius X on 4th June 1914, the date every year on which the Augustinian family now remembers Blessed James of Viterbo.
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