By Donal Anthony Foley –
St. Jude Thaddeus
The feast of St. Jude Thaddeus on October 28 is celebrated jointly with his fellow Apostle St. Simon, known as the Zealot. St. Jude is best known as the helper in cases despaired of, and the patron saint of desperate or even hopeless situations. He is known as St. Jude Thaddeus to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot who betrayed Christ. Thaddeus may have been a sort of nickname, and traditionally this name has been associated with sweetness and gentleness of character.
St. Jude was one of the Twelve Apostles, and besides being a close follower of Jesus, he was also, according to tradition, a relative of Our Lord. He wrote a short epistle, which begins as follows: “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James.” Traditionally, St. Jude has been regarded as the cousin of Christ.
St. Jude was present at the Last Supper, and then after Pentecost, he became an evangelist in Judea, Samaria and other areas, including Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), while St Simon went to Egypt.
St. Jude is also said to have evangelized Armenia, in the company of the Apostle Bartholomew (Nathaniel). The Monastery of St. Thaddeus, an ancient Armenian monastery located in present day Iran, is said to be one of the oldest church buildings in the world and is traditionally connected with St. Jude.
St. Simon joined forces with St. Jude to evangelize Persia (modern Iran). Here according to tradition, both saints sealed their witness to Christ as martyrs, although other traditions say that St. Jude was martyred in either Beirut or Armenia. The major parts of the remains of Sts. Jude and Simon are now in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
One of the saints who had a great devotion to St. Jude was St Bernard, who flourished in the 12th century and was renowned for his wonderful devotion to Our Lady. He apparently had a relic of St. Jude and was also, according to some accounts, privileged to see a vision of the saint.
St. Bridget of Sweden was another medieval saint with a great devotion to St. Jude. She was granted many revelations concerning the Passion of Christ, but on one occasion when Jesus appeared to her He told her to pray with great confidence to St. Jude, since he was most willing and able to help her.
An indication of the importance of St. Jude as an intercessor can be seen in a brief dating from September 1584, Pope Paul III granted an indulgence to anyone who visited his tomb on his feast day. This is significant because such plenary indulgences were unusual during the medieval period.
Devotion to St. Jude
But it is really since the 19th century that devotion to St. Jude has become more prominent in the Church, thanks in part to the Claretian Order founded by St. Anthony Mary Claret, a Spanish missionary bishop.
There is a national shrine dedicated to St. Jude in Chicago, founded by Claretian Missionaries in 1929. Special intentions can be sent to the shrine and there are solemn novenas to the saint held five times a year. More details about this shrine can be seen here: https://shrineofstjude.org/
A tour of relics of St. Jude is currently taking place in the United States, under the title, “The Apostle of the Impossible.” This tour, which began last month and will continue until May 2024, and comprises visits to 100 cities, involves a relic of the arm of St. Jude, which has been venerated in Rome for centuries at the Church of San Salvatore in Lauro. The holy relic is in a reliquary shaped like an upright arm. More details about the tour can be seen here: https://apostleoftheimpossible.com/
St. Jude was a great evangelizer, and we certainly need a renewal of the evangelical spirit in the Church in the face of the serious condition of things in the world. Nor should we forget his companion, St. Simon the Zealot; he was zealous for Jewish nationalism, but after encountering Christ he became zealous for the Church to the point of shedding his blood for the Gospel. We also need a good measure of such zeal for the Faith.
St. Jude was a cousin of Our Lord, and so a member of His extended family. As regards Fatima, the spirit it engenders is of its nature intimately bound up primarily with devotion to Our Lady, but also to some extent, with devotion to St. Joseph, who appeared to the seers during the final apparition with the Child Jesus and blessed the world.
We tend to focus on the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, but perhaps we should also think about the “Holy Extended Family” of which St. Jude was a prominent member – to say nothing of the fact that he was also a courageous apostle for Christ.
In any event, this family connection probably explains to some extent his extraordinary power of intercession, that he was part of the “inner circle” of Christ’s followers and in fact a blood relative of Jesus. But we mustn’t forget that his intercessory power also indicates great holiness of life. This power also indicates great humility, which was indicated by in the way he remained in the background in the Gospel narratives.
But this humility may well be another reason why he is now being exalted in the Church, in line with Christ’s words that the last will be first.
And perhaps, too, it would be good if we could all become more acquainted with other prominent members of Jesus’s extended family, such as his grandparents, Joachim and Anna. Even more than the Apostles, they would have spent time in intimacy with Him, and as a result of this achieved an exalted holiness, a holiness which means that they, too, are powerful intercessors.
It seems providential that devotion to St Jude has become more widespread recently, given that our times have become especially troubled. Let us therefore turn to this great saint, a close relative of both Jesus and Mary, with great confidence, in the knowledge that he can aid us no matter how great our difficulties or problems may be.
Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related web site at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also written a series of three time-travel/adventure books for young people, The Glaston Chronicles, available at www.shopfatima.com/blue-army-press