The Saint of the Impossible
We had an amazing experience here in Our Lady of the Lake parish the week before Christmas. Over the course of the day on Monday, 12/18, over 3,000 people came to venerate the relic of St. Jude. While many came from the surrounding times, there were others who journeyed from the likes of Long Island and Philadelphia for this once in a lifetime experience. More than 500 people attended the Mass to offer thanks to this Saint of the Impossible for his intercession on our behalf with his cousin, Jesus. We are grateful to the many volunteers who helped set up, keep the crowds flowing smoothly about the parish and then clean up at the end. The Knights of Columbus 4th Degree served as the honor guard adding great deal of dignity to the event. Our Music Ministry also outdid themselves during the Mass.
WHO IS SAINT JUDE?
Saint Jude was one of Christ’s most intimate collaborators, being part of a group of twelve men called Apostles, a Greek term meaning “one who is sent.” While Christ had many disciples (followers), the Apostles’ mission to carry the Christian message to the world was unique in the authority they held. “He appointed twelve whom he also named apostles that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons” (Mark 3:14-15).
His name is literally “Judas,” but to distinguish him from the other Apostle Judas—the infamous betrayer Judas Iscariot, whom even the Lord refers to as “the son of perdition” (John 17:12)—his name in English is usually abbreviated to Jude. It is occasionally written as Saint Jude Thaddeus, following the use of his “nickname” in Matthew 10:3 and Mark 3:18.
The confusion of having two Judas’ was a concern even in New Testament times. The Gospel of John contains the only sentence Saint Jude Thaddeus utters in the Scriptures, and John makes sure to add a clarifying note as he quotes him: “Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?’” (John 14:22). John wants us to leave no doubt that the question came from the holy Apostle and not the betrayer.
The New Testament refers to Jude as “the brother of Jesus” in two passages (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3). However, this does not mean that Jude was the Lord’s blood brother. The Greek word for brother can also mean “cousin,” “family member,” or even just “acquaintance.”
The Church Father, Papias of Hierapolis (c. 70–163 AD), informs us within his work, Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord, that Jude is the son of Mary of Cleophas, one of the women at the foot of the Cross during Our Lord’s crucifixion (John 19:25). But Papias also states that Mary of Cleophas was the sister of Mary, the mother of the Lord, making Jude the Lord’s cousin.
In his Epistle, Jude identifies himself as “the brother of James” (Jude 1). He does so because his brother, Saint James the Less, also an Apostle, occupied the very prominent position of bishop of Jerusalem and was known by the whole Christian community. In identifying himself in this manner, the lesser-known Jude makes his person and authority known to all.
We know Jude was very active in his apostolic activity. Some details have survived the centuries. Some records indicate he preached in Mesopotamia, including present-day Iraq and parts of present-day Iran, Kuwait, Syria, and Turkey. It was there that he partnered with Simon the Zealot.
Some Syriac texts declare that he preached in Edessa, an ancient city in Upper Mesopotamia, within the Roman province of Osroene. Other writings corroborate these claims. For example, an Armenian hymnal from the thirteenth century identifies the Apostles Jude Thaddeus and Bartholomew as “our first enlighteners” (the Armenian kingdom encompassed Edessa).
We know the two Apostles returned to Jerusalem in approximately 50 AD for the Council of Jerusalem. According to the fourth-century ancient Christian historian Eusebius of Caesarea, Jude again returned to Jerusalem in the year 62 and assisted in the election of his brother, Saint Simeon, as the second Bishop of Jerusalem (following the martyrdom of his other brother, James the Less).
WHAT ARE RELICS?
Relics are physical objects that have a direct association with the saints or with Our Lord. They are usually broken down into three classes. First class relics are the body or fragments of the body of a saint, such as pieces of bone or flesh. Second class relics are something that a saint personally owned, such as a shirt or book (or fragments of those items). Third class relics are those items that a saint touched or that have been touched to a first, second, or another third class relic of a saint. With regard to third class relics, the touch does not have to be a direct touch to the relic itself. Merely touching the container that houses the relic is sufficient to bring about that transformation and effect a new relic.
Scripture teaches that God acts through relics, especially in terms of healing. In fact, when surveying what Scripture has to say about sacred relics, one is left with the idea that healing is what relics “do.”
In each of these instances God has brought about a healing using a material object. The vehicle for the healing was the touching of that object. It is very important to note, however, that the cause of the healing is God; the relics are a means through which He acts. In other words, relics are not magic. They do not contain a power that is their own; a power separate from God. Any good that comes about through a relic is God’s doing. But the fact that God chooses to use the relics of saints to work healing and miracles tells us that He wants to draw our attention to the saints as “models and intercessors” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 828). It also reveals His intention to use relics to foreshadow the general resurrection of mankind: that one day God’s faithful children, the members of His Body, will reign with him in glory, and through whom, even now on earth, He works mightily: “Christ shall come to be glorified in his Saints and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.” (2 Thes 1:10-11)