Hey Everyone! Today I have an awesome guest post about St. Jude by a new blogger friend name Jessa! Jessa blogs over at Shalom Sweet Home. Check out her blog link here and mini bio at the bottom of this post ---
“Hey, Jude, don’t make it bad, take a sad song and make it better…” – The Beatles
Early in the RCIA Catholic conversion process, back when I was still a Protestant college kid in 2005, I was put in a small “home group” with two other students who were also in the process of discerning their conversions. Like so many other people searching for meaning, we had started to look for it in odd places. One girl had been moved by George Harrison’s death a few years prior to begin to look for a deeper meaning in life, and though it seemed like an odd leap from his Hare-Krishna Eastern mystic spirituality to the Catholic Church, here she was. Meanwhile, I had harbored a long-term fascination with John Lennon in particular and consistently joked that me becoming Catholic was basically a lost cause, so if any saint were going to help me, it would have to be Saint Jude.
So it was only natural that, when pressed to come up with a name for our home group on the spur of the moment, we decided to name the group “Hey Saint Jude.”
As a group, we discussed the beautiful Catholic implications of the Beatles’ song “Let it Be.” (Have you ever actually listened to the lyrics? It is one of the most beautiful Catholic songs I know, and it’s not even officially Catholic.) We bought a German chocolate cake with “Habemus Papam” scrawled across the top in honor of the election of Pope Benedict XVI. We fitted a wire halo around a stuffed penguin so my then-sponsor and now-husband could have a baby Jesus to hold when he dressed up as St. Joseph for the All Saints’ Day RCIA meeting.
Fast forward to the following Easter Vigil, where you will see the priest calling me “Jude” as he basically drowns me in chrism. My perfectly curled hairstyle was ruined by the oil, and yet I was so deliriously happy and sweet-smelling. The impossible cause had come true, and I chose St. Jude as my patron saint and confirmation name.
Not much is known about the patron saint of impossible causes. According to tradition, he was a Jewish man born in the Galilee region, near what is now Caesarea Philippi, an archaeological site in the Golan Heights in modern-day Israel (only a few hours north of my current home in Jerusalem), and was most likely a farmer before leaving to follow Christ as one of his twelve disciples. But the New Testament doesn’t give us any vivid conversion story for him. He didn’t dramatically leave his nets and his father to follow Jesus, like James and John did (Matthew 4:21-22). He didn’t follow Jesus after being delivered by Him from possession by seven demons, like Mary Magdalene did (Luke 8:2). It’s not even 100 percent clear whether he is the same Jude that is designated as a relative of Jesus in the Gospels (Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3) and went on to write the last Christian epistle in the New Testament (The Letter of Jude). In fact, according to most Biblical scholars, it’s not the same guy.
So, in fact, the only thing we know for certain about the apostle Jude is that he was an apostle. Real helpful, right?
The only time that Jude speaks at all in the New Testament is in John 14:22, at the Last Supper, when he asks Jesus, “Master, what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” His question is simply a plot device to move Jesus’ story forward. But the story that Jesus is telling is significant: Jude’s only spoken line comes in the middle of the discourse during which Jesus is promising the disciples that he will later send the Holy Spirit (the “Advocate” and “Spirit of truth”) to guide them and be with them always.
Jude himself saw this prophecy come true, because one of the only other two times that he is mentioned in the New Testament is after the Ascension of Jesus, in Acts 1:13, in the list of apostles (the original twelve, minus Judas the Betrayer) staying in the Upper Room and present at Pentecost (see Acts 2). This is why he is often depicted with the tongue of fire on his head; showing the exact moment when he saw this prophecy fulfilled and received the Holy Spirit.
Jude is only mentioned one other time in the New Testament: in the complete list of the twelve apostles of Jesus found in Luke 6:16. But it is interesting to note that, in both these lists of apostles, he is the last one mentioned.
In the first list in particular, this could just be to indicate a very specific contrast between him and the second-to-last name on the list, Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, who has the exact same given name as Jude in the vast majority of languages (save for English and French), including the original Greek: Ιούδας.
(Me, far right, at a St. Jude shrine in Nuevo León, Mexico, on the way back from a mission trip. Notice that St. Jude’s name in Spanish is actually “Judas,” just like Judas Iscariot. Also, notice the small tongue of fire and the Holy Spirit dove above St. Jude’s head.)
But why does St. Jude remain last on the list in the Upper Room? Judas Iscariot is long gone at this point and the danger of any confusion between the two has past.
But I like to think that his spot as last on the list of disciples is also significant; Jude is upheld as the saint of last resort. The last desperate thing you try when all hope is gone. His help often comes at the 11th hour, when you are at the point of giving up.
The last shall indeed be first.
According to tradition, after receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the apostle Jude went on to preach the gospel throughout the ancient Middle East until he was martyred in Beirut in the year 65. He is credited as being one of the first missionaries to bring Christianity to Armenia, which, more than 200 years later, became the first country in the world to make Christianity legal. His remains were brought to Rome, where many pilgrims, including Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in the 1100s and Saint Bridget of Sweden in the 1300s, developed steadfast devotions to the power of his intercession in difficult cases.
Widespread devotion to St. Jude as the patron saint of impossible causes spread beginning in the 19th century from Italy and Spain to Latin America and then to the United States. In addition to being the patron saint of impossible causes, St. Jude is also the patron saint of the Chicago Police Department, a soccer team in Brazil, and a variety of localities in the Philippines.
Many people who pray to St. Jude for his intercession, particularly through a novena, promise that they will publicly thank him for his help, and as a result, a quick glance at the classified ads section of any newspaper from a city with a large Catholic population will find a number of classified ads thanking him for his intercession. Thanking him for taking each of our own sad songs and making them better.
“Na, na, na, na-na-na, na, na-na-na, na…” Hey Saint Jude, thanks for everything.
Mini Bio: Jessa Barniol is an all-American girl and Protestant-to-Catholic convert living in Jerusalem with her husband, the Ecuadorean astrophysicist. She loves surprises, bright colors, snail mail, and tea. She blogs about her adventures in Jerusalem at Shalom Sweet Home.