Most of us know that St. Jude Thaddeus, the Apostle, is always considered the patron saint of the eleventh hour, or the patron of hopeless and desperate cases. Most people know nothing more of him than his name, and, indeed, there is not much that is certainly known of him but let us at least try what we can discover from revelation and tradition.
He bears the surname "Thaddeus" to distinguish him from the Iscariot. He was a brother of St. James-the-Less and had two more brothers who, together with himself, are called, in the Gospel, "brethren of Jesus." His father was Cleophas, and his mother was Mary; she was a near relative of Our Blessed Lady. In many churches, her feast is held on the 9th of April. Being so nearly connected with Our Lord, St. Jude must often have been associated with Him in childhood and boyhood.
In most countries, St. Jude is represented bearing a picture or a miniature of Our Lord. The following story is attached to this by tradition:
In Our Lord's lifetime, the fame of His miracles reached Abagaro, the King of Edessa, who was afflicted with leprosy. He therefore sent a messenger to Jesus, begging Him to come and cure him. But when he heard that Our Lord could not do so, the king sent an artist to Jerusalem to paint a portrait of Our Lord for him. But the artist was so dazzled by the splendor that shone forth from the face of Our Savior that he could not draw a line. Our Lord took pity on him, and, holding a cloth to His Sacred Face, He impressed thereon the image of His Divine Countenance. He then returned this to the artist and told him to give it to his king, with the promise that he would one day send someone to cure him. It is related that this mission was confided to St. Jude Thaddeus, who, after Our Lord's ascension, went to Edessa.
On being presented to King Abagaro, a supernatural brightness emanated from the apostle's countenance. The king knelt and said, "Art thou then the disciple whom Jesus promised to send to cure me?" St. Jude replied, "You had faith in Jesus, therefore hath He sent me."
"I had such faith in him," replied Abagaro, " that I would have. sent an army to destroy the Jews who put Him to death, had I not feared to be overcome by the Romans." St. Jude then preached the faith of Jesus to the king, and, finding him ready to accept his teaching, he laid his hands upon him, and but great numbers of the people of Edessa embraced the faith.
The apostle spent the next ten years of his life evangelizing Mesopotamia. After the Council of Jerusalem, he joined St. Simeon in labia, and afterwards in Persia, where they reaped a great harvest of souls and succeeded in overthrowing a number of vile and evil customs.
In Persia they were much harassed in their apostolic toils, by (no magicians, Zaroes and Arfaxat, whose incantations the apostles rendered null. On one occasion these idolatrous priests set loose upon the apostles a number of charmed serpents. But the snakes turned upon the priests themselves and attacked them until commanded by the apostles to cease. The apostles then took up the snakes in their hands without being barmed, but no sooner had the idolatrous priests done so than the reptiles coiled round them and bit their hands.
Many heathens were converted by the sight of these marvels.
From the 17th verse of St. Jude's Epistle, we may conclude that he was among the last of the twelve to die for Our Lord. Though this epistle is one of the shortest, it is remarkable for the strength and grandeur of its language. Authorities differ as to the manner of his martyrdom. Tradition states that he was beaten with clubs and his head cleft with an axe. His body is now honored in St. Peter's basilica. Pope Paul III. in a brief dated September 22nd, 1548, granted a plenary indulgence to all who visit his tomb on his feast, October 28th. This is a proof that even in the Middle Ages devotion to St. Jude was in vogue, for very rarely in those times was a plenary indulgence granted. Though the body of the Apostle rests in Rome, his charity is diffused throughout the world, and in every country, his clients experience his loving aid.
By reason of the treason of Judas Iscariot, the name of Judas has become so odious that even St. Jude has suffered thereby. It would seem that our Lord wishes to repair the honor of St. Jude by giving to his intercession such powerful efficacy. In a vision of St. Bridget of Sweden, Our Lord told her to have recourse to St. Jude.
"In accordance with his name, Thaddeus, which means amiable, loving,' he," said Jesus, "will always be found willing to help." His intercession is especially powerful in maladies of the soul, temptations, and evil habits, and, above all, in temptations to despair and impurity. St. Bernard treasured with great veneration a relic of this saint, and asked that at death it might be buried with him, saying that during life he had found him a most powerful helper.
We may honor him by having Mass said in his honor or by Holy Communions, novenas, and prayers. There is a devotion on nine Sundays in honor of St. Jude. To give alms in his honor would be a most fitting way of showing devotion to this most amiable saint.