On October 28 in the Latin Church the Apostles Simon and Jude are commemorated together – perhaps because, as tradition has it, that they were martyred for the faith together. The Maronite Church commemorates Saint Jude separately on June 19 th, and calls him “Mar Lebba”, a shortened form of “Thaddeus” a name, which in Aramaic means “breast” or one who is close to another, as in “bosom buddies”.
Like the other apostles, for example, Peter, Andrew, James, Bartholomew and Thomas, Jude was a courageous missionary carrying the good news of Christ whenever he could. The Armenians credit the Apostles Jude and Bartholomew for preaching there before Gregory the Illuminator converted the Armenian King in the year 300 and the entire country became Christian.
Saint Jude is depicted with a tongue of fire over his head, to signify that with the other apostles he was present at Pentecost, also a walking staff to show how much he traveled to bring others the good news of Christ. Likewise, he sometimes holds a club or an ax – the tools of torture, for according to tradition; he was beaten to death then beheaded. He is also depicted with a medallion on his chest depicting the face of Christ, perhaps because Assyrian and Chaldean Christians have a tradition that a certain Thaddeus, not our St. Jude Thaddeus, but one of the 72 disciples, brought to King Abgar of Edessa, an image of Jesus that brought him healing, converting him and the people of Edessa.
But above and beyond all these great attributes, Saint Jude has become best known as the patron of “hopeless causes”, a name we can very much can relate to. For like many of you, I too have been a “hopeless case”, and have shared much life with other “hopeless cases.”
In the Gospel story of the “Prodigal Son” a certain “hopeless case” left his father’s house, wandered far from the warmth of his home, and abandoned his father’s love, not to mention his own time, money and personal dignity all wasted on a sinful life. He ended up with “the pigs”. The alcoholic calls this “hitting bottom”. We can also call it “hell.” Anyone who says that they have never been depressed nor have they had a serious problem in life must consider themselves quite blessed indeed.
However, it seems more true to experience that every home and family, every person has at one time or another, been “to hell and back.” This is the “hopeless case” that Saint Jude Thaddeus so effectively cures.
Perhaps Saint Jude was “assigned” to the heavenly department in charge of “hopeless cases” because of his historical association with another apostle who bears a resemblance to him in name only: Judas Iscariot. This Judas lost hope and killed himself because he betrayed Our Lord. This was a a sad ending for someone who did no more nor less that any of us do – betray Christ by our self-centered, sin infested lives.
Saint Jude Thaddeus, however, took a different approach than Judas Iscariot, and perhaps in an attempt to separate him from this Judas, the Church has associated him with “hopeless cases.” God can never be outdone in generosity, and proof enough of His “great power at work in us who believe”, Saint Jude’s intercession for “hopeless cases” has never been lacking in grace.
The most famous Lebanese in America, Danny Thomas, in the early 1950’s with $7.00 left in his pocket, a wife expecting their first baby, and looming hospital bills, placed with much faith and love that last $7.00 in the collection basket of Church. The very next day he was offered a small acting part that offered him seven times what he offered to God.
Two years later Danny once again turned to the Church. Praying to Saint Jude, he said “help me find my way in life and I will build you a shrine.” Little did he know that the “shrine” he would eventually build would be a world renowned hospital that cares for needy children free of charge, a true “shrine” that honors God and serves His children.
Brothers and sisters, hopeless cases that we are and hopeless cases that we pray for, let us, as Pope Benedict so beautifully does in his second encyclical on hope, Spe Salvi, place our confidence not in man, nor in society, nor in our own plans, powers, or abilities, nor in all that this world has to offer, but rather let us place our hope firmly in God.
May Saint Jude, patron of the hopeless, by his life, martyrdom and intercession, help us to once again seek out and find our Loving Father, the One who welcomes the Lost, Helpless and Prodigal, and let us never be ashamed to turn to Him who welcomes us, and those for whom we pray. Saint Jude pray for us.
+Gregory John Mansour
(Reprinted with permission.)