Tag Archives: St. Jude

Saint Jude, Apostle and Martyr

October 25, 2019


Identity. Jude is one of the original twelve apostles. Luke calls him “Judas the son of James” (Lk 6:16a; Acts 1:13), and places him eleventh on the list. He is also mentioned by John (Jn 14:22). Judas is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Judah. He is also known as Thaddeus (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18), which means “great hearted”; Labbaeus or Lebbeus, which means “courageous”; Jude Thaddeus; Judas Lebbaeus; or simply Jude.

Mistaken Identity. Jude is not to be confused with Judas Iscariot, the betrayer; Judas Maccabeus of the Old Testament; Judas the Galilean (Acts 5:37); the Judas who Paul stayed with in Damascus (Acts 9:11); Judas Barsabbas who accompanied Paul, Barnabas, and Silas to Antioch (Acts 15:22,27,32); or Judas, the brother of James (Mt 13:55; Mk 6:33), a relative of Jesus, and the author of the Letter of Jude who identified himself as “Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and brother of James” (Jude 1:1).

Scarce Information. The New Testament provides almost no information about Jude. His name is mentioned on four lists of apostles, and he speaks only once during the Last Supper when he asked Jesus, “Master, then what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” (Jn 14:22).

Early Church History. Historical information about Jude is sketchy. Church historians differ over whether Jude made missionary journeys to Egypt, Syria, or Armenia. There is stronger agreement that he went to both Mesopotamia and Persia where he was joined by Simon the Cananean. According to tradition, both Simon and Jude suffered martyrdom in Persia, but there is no consensus over the manner of his death. He is variously reported to have been shot to death with arrows, beaten with clubs, run through with a lance, stabbed with a halberd, or crucified, possibly upside down.

Artistic Depictions. St. Jude is often shown holding a medallion with an image of Jesus. His principal symbols are a ship, sometimes with a cross on the sail or a cross-shaped mast, an oar, or a walking stick, either a plain stick or with a cross on the top, all emblematic of his missionary journeys; as well as a club, upside down cross, axe, lance, or halberd, all possible instruments of his martyrdom.

A Famous Patron Saint. St. Jude is best known as the patron saint of hopeless cases. This tradition developed because people prayed through the intercession of the apostles beginning with Peter. If a prayer request was not answered, they would continue to work their way through the list. After ten unsuccessful attempts, the plight of their request seemed hopeless, and as a last resort they would turn to Jude, the eleventh and last saint on the list. Another explanation is that people avoided praying through Jude because his name was next to Judas Iscariot, but after their prayer requests with all of the other saints had failed, their last prayer would be directed to Jude.

Additional Patronages. St. Jude is also the patron saint of Armenia and those who suffer misfortune, and during the Twentieth Century he also emerged as a patron saint of hospitals and the sick.

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