St. Jude Thaddeus, patron of the desperate, was an apostle of Jesus, who preached the Gospel in the East where he was martyred. Even today people still invoke him as a comforter, a friend, and a beacon of hope.
By Denise Emille Duque
19 November 2020
St. Jude Thaddeus, a.k.a. St. Jude, is one of the lesser known apostles of Christ. That is mostly because St. Jude shares the name of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer. Despite that, faithful Catholics see him as a friend and a comforter whenever hope seems lost. But who is St. Judas Thaddeus?
Galilee, 1st Century AD – Cleophas and Mary, the cousin of the Blessed Virgin, gave birth to a son and named him Judas. Through his mother’s relation to Mary, mother of Christ, Judas, and his older brother James became the cousins of Jesus Christ.
As a youth, Jude was a farmer by trade, and by the time the Lord called him to be an apostle, Judas and James left the fields to proclaim the truth about the Messiah. He followed Christ in his preaching, witnessed miracles, and saw the banishment of demons.
The Legend of King Abgar
One day, Christ received a messenger. The messenger revealed himself to be sent by King Abgar of Edessa, in modern Sanliurfa, Turkey. Here is the exchange of letters between King Abgar and the Lord:
King Abgar: “Abgar, ruler of Edessa, to Jesus the good physician who has appeared in the country of Jerusalem, greeting. I have heard the reports of you and of your cures as performed by you without medicines or herbs. For it is said that you make the blind to see and the lame to walk, that you cleanse lepers and cast out impure spirits and demons, and that you heal those afflicted with lingering disease, and raise the dead. And having heard all these things concerning you, I have concluded that one of two things must be true: either you are God, and having come down from heaven you do these things, or else you, who does these things, are the son of God. I have therefore written to you to ask you if you would take the trouble to come to me and heal all the ill which I suffer. For I have heard that the Jews are murmuring against you and are plotting to injure you. But I have a very small yet noble city which is great enough for us both.”
The Lord replied: “Blessed are you who hast believed in me without having seen me. For it is written concerning me, that they who have seen me will not believe in me, and that they who have not seen me will believe and be saved. But in regard to what you have written me, that I should come to you, it is necessary for me to fulfill all things here for which I have been sent, and after I have fulfilled them thus to be taken up again to him that sent me. But after I have been taken up I will send to you one of my disciples, that he may heal your disease and give life to you and yours.”
We can see in their exchange that Christ was pleased with the faith of the King of Edessa despite never meeting Him yet. Then He pressed his face on a cloth and left an image. The Lord fulfilled his promise by sending St. Jude to King Abgar’s court.
When St. Jude arrived, he handed the cloth and the message of the Lord. Upon looking at the image, King Abgar was cured of his leprosy – or in some versions, gout. Then he was overfilled with joy and converted as a “proto-Christian”.
Death and Resurrection of Christ
St. Jude was one of the apostles who fled when Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord. He was not there when Christ was mocked, tortured, and crucified. Then the Lord rose from the dead. He appeared to the apostles in hiding. Instead of chastising them, He forgave them. St. Jude spent the next 40 days learning new things from the Lord, and together with the Apostles, was granted the authority to forgive sin. Then the Lord ascended into heaven where man and angel alike were jubilant beyond our comprehension.
Fifty days after the resurrection of Christ, St. Jude, along with Mary and the other apostles, was inside a house when they felt a mighty gust of wind and tongues of fire appeared. It was the Holy Spirit! The gathered disciples were filled with the mightiness of the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues. After these events, the apostles spread out to proclaim the Gospel to the gentiles.
Proclaiming the Gospel and Martyrdom
In 37 AD, St. Jude preached the Gospel in Mesopotamia and became the leader of the Church in the East, which St. Thomas had established. Then he traveled to Syria, Libya, Anatolia, and Persia with St. Simon the Zealot. Their efforts converted many people to the faith. He and St. Bartholomew brought the Gospel to Armenia and were credited with establishing the Church of Armenia.
By 60 AD, Eastern Christians were starting to be persecuted, and to remedy the situation, St. Jude wrote a letter to the new converts to console them and give them hope. He encouraged them to remain faithful and to love God as they were taught. He also warned them against false teachers who twist and pervert the teachings of Christ. These actions led him to become the patron of the desperate and the hopeless. Early Christians believed that he was martyred at this time.
His death is shrouded in mystery. But it can be inferred that he was either culled by an ax or beaten by a club. That is because of his usual depiction of carrying such weapons. Then his remains were transported to Rome, where they were buried in the crypts in St. Peter’s Basilica where they remain to this day.
St. Jude is depicted as a man carrying a club or ax, which represents his martyrdom. He also has a cloth or medal with the image of Christ, which is a reference to the tale of King Abgar. And he is also shown with a tongue of fire above his head, which represents his presence on the day of the Pentecost where he received the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Devotion to St. Jude started in Italy and Spain, then spread to South American in the 1800’s and to the US in the 19920’s. His novena helped Americans and European immigrants to get through the pressures of the Great Depression and the Second World War. Despite the advances in science, technology, and medicine, people still see St. Jude as a comforter, a friend, and a beacon of hope.
C. Duque is a practicing Catholic from the Philippines and an AB English graduate from Bicol University in Legaspi, Albay. He is currently a Copywriter for Uni-bros Trading Inc. and a Freelance Blog Writer. Also, he is passionate about learning about Catholic, Ancient, Medieval, and Military History.