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St. Jude Novena
Question from Connelly on 9/26/2002:

At our adoration chapel last night, I picked up a St. Jude Novena from a large stack of copies that sounded like a chain letter. Basically you were to pray the prayer asking for your intention 6 times each day for 9 days. Then you were required to leave 9 copies of the prayer with instructions at the church each day or 81 copies total. Your prayer was guaranteed to be answered on or before the 9 day period. Is this really a valid novena? No wonder our protestant brethren think we are pagans.

Answer by Bill Bilton on 9/26/2002:

St. Jude was one of the Twelve Apostles and the brother of St. James, who was also one of the twelve. Jude was described by St. Matthew (13:55) as being one of the "brethren" of Jesus, probably meaning a cousin since the Hebrew word for "brethren" indicates a blood relationship. Elsewhere, Jude's mother, Mary, was referred to as a cousin of Jesus' mother Mary.

St. Jude wrote a Gospel letter to recent Christian converts who were under persecution. In it, he encouraged them to persevere in the face of the harsh, difficult circumstances they were in, just as their forefathers had done before them. His inspirational support of these early believers led to him becoming the patron saint of desperate cases, and his feast day is celebrated October 28.

St. Jude is traditionally depicted carrying the image of Jesus in his hand. This idea comes from a Biblical story in which King Abagar of Edessa asked Jesus to cure him of leprosy and sent an artist to bring him a drawing of Jesus. Impressed with Abagar's great faith, Jesus pressed his face into a cloth and gave it to St. Jude to take to Abagar. Upon seeing Jesus' image, The King was cured and he converted to Christianity along with most of the people under his rule. St. Jude is shown very often with a flame around his head. This represents his presence at Pentecost, when he received the Holy Spirit with the other apostles.

After the death of Jesus, St. Jude traveled throughout Mesopotamia, Libya, and Persia with St. Simon preaching and converting many people to Christianity. He is believed to have been martyred in Persia or Syria. The axe that he is often shown holding in pictures symbolizes the way in which he was killed -- truly, he paid the ultimate price for his faith. After his death his body was brought back to Rome and was placed in a crypt beneath St. Peter's Basilica.

In the Middle Ages, St. Bernard of Clairvaux (France) was a renowned devotee of St. Jude, as was St. Bridget of Sweden who, in a vision, was encouraged by Jesus to turn to St. Jude with faith and confidence. He told her that, in accordance with Jude's surname, Thaddeus (which means generous, courageous, and kind), "he will show himself to be the most willing to give you help."

Devotion to St. Jude began again in earnest in the 1800's, starting in Italy and Spain, spreading to South America, and finally to the U.S. in the 1920's. Novena prayers to St. Jude helped people, especially newly-arrived immigrants from Europe, deal with the pressures caused by the Great Depression, Second World War, and the changing workplace and family life.

Why has devotion to St. Jude continued to grow to the present day?

In spite of (or possibly because of) all the advances human society has made, human beings find themselves under incredible stress and have difficulty coping at one time or another. All our wonderful technology and other man-made innovations are unable to provide comfort and hope when it is truly needed, so millions of people around the world turn to St. Jude when they feel the most helpless and alone. St. Jude has proven to be a true friend and a beacon of hope to those who call on him--always willing to help and seek help no matter how desperate the need. And in today's tumultuous times, we need him more than ever.


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