Sunday, May 8, 2016

52 Saints ~ Week 19 ~ St. Jude Thaddaeus

If anyone had told me that one of the saints I was going to write about for this series was St. Jude, I would have said, "Impossible!" I've never thought much about St. Jude at all. I knew that he was the patron saint of impossible causes (or Desperate Situations and Hopeless Cases), and that there is a rather unattractive statue of him with a flame on his head (having to do with Pentecost) and BIG medal of the head of Jesus around his neck in almost every church that has statues at all. I knew that he wrote a short book in the Bible (the 5th shortest if you are interested with about 461 words, depending on translation, I guess). And, of course, he is one of the apostles, although he is called Thaddaeus, and only shows up in the lists of the apostles.

I also knew that he has a large and devoted following among Catholics whose spirituality consists largely of novenas and devotions to saints (I'm not belittling this.). I used to go to a church with Perpetual Adoration and many people there prayed novenas to St. Jude which partially consisted of leaving nine copies of the novena in the church for nine days, and there were so many that the assistant pastor went around the church everyday collecting them. This borders on the superstitious to me, but who can tell what is in the hearts of people who pray like this. There is probably as wide a spectrum of motivations as there is in any other kind prayer. Still, this didn't exactly attract me to devotion to St. Jude.

Then last Sunday, he got my attention. Usually, I am either in the choir loft of our large church, or I sit on the right hand side of the church. When I am the lector, though, after I read, I come down and sit on the left hand side and there in the back corner of the transept, I saw the nicest statue of St. Jude I've ever come across, and he was looking at me (I attribute this to the position of the statue, not some miraculous intervention.), and I started thinking about impossible causes, and why it is a good thing to have a saint who is sort of in charge of them.

Who does not at some time in his life have a situation that seems impossible--something that casts a pall over every good thing when it comes to mind, and against which he is powerless? Who does not have a person in his life, who is impossible--who seems to move from one horrible situation to the next and never learns how to live rationally? Who has never had a loved one with an impossible sickness? Which of us could not use a friend in these situations who will help us to carry these burdens?

So, I decided to write about St. Jude.

One thing I found is that there is some disagreement about whether the Jude who wrote the Epistle of Jude was the Jude who was one of the apostles, and therefore the saint we are talking about. The Catholic Encyclopedia says yes, the USCCB website (You will find an introduction and the book here.) says otherwise. Here is the entire paragraph from the Catholic Encyclopedia which I found rather confusing.
In the address of the Epistle the author styles himself "Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James". "Servant of Jesus Christ" means "apostolic minister or labourer". "Brother of James" denotes him as the brother of James kat exochen who was well-known to the Hebrew Christians to whom the Epistle of St. Jude was written. This James is to be identified with the Bishop of the Church of Jerusalem (Acts 15:13; 21:18), spoken of by St. Paul as "the brother of the Lord" (Galatians 1:19), who was the author of the Catholic Epistle of St. James. and is regarded amongst Catholic interpreters as the Apostle James the son of Alpheus (St. James the Less). This last identification, however, is not evident, nor, from a critical point of view, does it seem beyond all doubt. Most Catholic commentators identify Jude with the "Judas Jacobi" ("Jude, the brother of James" in the D.V.) of Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13 — also called Thaddeus (Matthew 10:3: Mark 3:18) — referring the expression to the fact that his brother James was better known than himself in the primitive Church. This view is strongly confirmed by the title "the brother of James", by which Jude designates himself in the address of his Epistle. If this identification is proved, it is clear that Jude, the author of the Epistle, was reckoned among the Twelve Apostles. This opinion is most highly probable. Beyond this we find no further information concerning Jude in the New Testament, except that the "brethren of the Lord", among whom Jude was included, were known to the Galatians and the Corinthians; also that several of them were married, and that they did not fully believe in Christ till after the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 9:5; Galatians 1:10; John 7:3-5; Acts 1:14). From a fact of Hegesippus told by Eusebius (Church History III.19-22) we learn that Jude was "said to have been the brother of the Lord according to the flesh", and that two of his grandsons lived till the reign of Trajan.
As you can imagine, we don't seem to be entirely sure where Jude went or what he did, but he is mentioned in Eusebius and elsewhere, including an apocryphal . An article from the Catholic News Agency says this;
St. Jude, known as Thaddaeus, was a brother of St. James the Lesser, and a relative of Jesus. Ancient writers tell us that he preached the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Lybia. According to Eusebius, he returned to Jerusalem in the year 62 and assisted at the election of his brother, St. Simeon, as Bishop of Jerusalem.
There is also an apocryphal text, The Acts of Thaddeus, which tells about St. Jude's visit to the King of Edessa, and this is the most interesting thing (to me) that I found out when I was looking for information about St. Jude. I have always wondered why St. Jude was wearing that enormous medal around his neck, and the answer is that it wasn't a medal at all, it was a miraculous image on the order of the veil of St. Veronica, the Image of Edessa, or Holy Mandylion of Edessa. This image was involved in the healing of the King. There are many theories about what it was and where it is, and one of the theories is that it was the Shroud of Turin. There is a blog entry by Dr. Taylor Marshall that explains the ins and outs of the story here.

Image of San Silvestro which is one of the images
thought to be the Holy Mandylion

If you find yourself in a desperate situation and would like to ask for St. Jude's intercession, there is a novena here. I wrote this over a week ago and today I find myself rather in need of the novena. St. Jude Thaddaeus, pray for us.

Janet Cupo is the proprietor of this blog.

If you want to see all of the posts in this series, click HERE.


  1. Benediction spoken by my father at the end of worship for 40 or 50 years: "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever" (Jude 24-25).

  2. I love that the statue was looking at you, Janet! Usually it is paintings that do that.

    1. Oh no, Stu, the paintings TALK to me. ;-)

      Just kidding.


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