On October 28, we celebrate the feast day of St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of lost causes, desperate situations, hospitals and Armenia. In time for this occasion, let us reflect upon his life and legacy and look for lessons that we can apply in our walk of faith.
Who is St. Jude Thaddeus?
Not much is known about St. Jude Thaddeus and his name is mentioned only a limited number of times in the New Testament. He is described by Matthew in the gospels as one of the “brethren” of Jesus, most likely his cousin. The Epistle of Jude mentions that it is written by Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.
St. Jude Thaddeus is also known as Judas or Judas Thaddeus and for this he is often mistaken to be Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus before he was crucified. Because of this some translators of the New Testament used the name Jude in order to distinguish him from Judas. He is also known by other names including Jude of James, Jude the brother of James and Lebbaeus.
The Life and Ministry of St. Jude Thaddeus
Tradition holds that St. Jude Thaddeus was born to Mary who is the cousin of Jesus’ own mother, Mary. His father Cleophas, was the brother of St. Joseph. St. Jude was married and had at least one child. There are references about him having grandchildren who lived as late as 95 A.D.
As one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, St. Jude Thaddeus preached the good news of Jesus throughout Galilee, Samaria and Judea. In 37 A.D., he traveled to Mesopotamia which is known today as Iraq. There he became a leader of the Church of the East, a church that St. Thomas founded.
St. Jude Thaddeus also journeyed across Libya, Turkey, Persia and Mesopotamia with St. Simon. Together they preached the good news and led many people to Christianity. He is often credited as having helped start the Armenian Church and other congregations outside the Roman Empire.
In 60 A.D., St. Jude wrote a letter to newly converted Christians in the Eastern Church who were suffering persecution. In his letter he warned them to be careful of the false teachers of the current day who were spreading wrong teachings about Christianity. He encouraged them to keep persevering and to stand firm in their faith in the midst of the harsh realities that they were facing.
Martyrdom and Legacy
In spite of the widespread persecutions of Christians during his time, St. Jude Thaddeus stood by his beliefs and ultimately paid the price for his faith. He is believed to have been martyred either in Persia or Syria sometime in 65 A.D. In religious art, he is often shown holding an axe or club which symbolizes the way he was martyred.
After his death, the apostle’s body was transported to Rome and placed in a crypt under St. Peter’s Basilica. Today his bones are kept in the left transept of St. Peter’s Basilica, under the main altar of St. Joseph, in one tomb that holds the remains of the apostle Simon the Zealot.
To this day, many devotees visit the site as a sign of respect and admiration. Because of his steadfast faith, St. Jude Thaddeus is invoked as the patron saint of hopeless cases and desperate situations.
Patron: Desperate situations; forgotten causes; hospital workers; hospitals; impossible causes; lost causes; diocese of Saint Petersburg, Florida.
Symbols: Bearded man holding an oar, a boat, boat hook, a club, an axe or a book; nearly every image depicts him wearing a medallion with a profile of Jesus, and usually with a small flame above his head; often carries a pen or sits at a writing location to make reference to the canonical Epistle; sailboat; inverted cross; square; halbert; club; loaves and fish; long cross; knotted club; boat hook; fuller's bat; lance; saw; flail; closed book; shield: red with sailboat with a cross on the mast.