Saints for Today: St. Jude, Apostle & Martyr (1st C.)


Feast Day: October 28

Little is known of Jude’s life after Pentecost. According to Western tradition he joined with Simon in preaching the Gospel in Persia, where both were martyred and currently share the same feast day.

Referred to as the Apostle “not Iscariot,” Jude is also referred to as Thaddeus of Lebbaeus. He may be the author of the Epistle of Jude in the New Testament, in which he identifies himself as the brother of James the Greater, and would therefore be a cousin of Jesus. This epistle, to the churches of the east (Mesopotamia and Persia), reveals a concern for backsliding among recent converts, and alerts the recipients to the dangers of heresies such as Gnosticism.

Of all the original twelve apostles Jude is perhaps the most commonly invoked in prayer. This is an ironic compensation for his obscurity in the Gospels. Aside from the citation of his name in the listings of the Twelve, Jude is quoted only once. This occurs in the Gospel of John (14:22) when he interrupts a disquisition by Jesus at the Last Supper to ask, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” This question evokes the answer of Jesus: “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”

In modern times St. Jude has acquired considerable popularity as ‘patron of hopeless cases.’ Perhaps this is due to the similarity of his name to that of the traitor Judas Iscariot. For a long time this evidently inhibited supplicants from invoking the name of St. Jude. It might be supposed that this had the effect of storing up a good deal of efficacious power, now available for even the most desperate cases.

In art St. Jude’s usual emblem is a club, the instrument of his death; otherwise (as often on East Anglian screens) he holds a ship, while Simon holds a fish, possibly because they were believed, as cousins of Zebedee, to follow the same calling as him. St. Jude’s association with hardship, bad luck, and social ostracism persists in such works as Thomas Hardy’s scandalous final novel, “Jude the Obscure” (1895), and Paul McCartney’s song “Hey Jude” (1968), the melancholy but encouraging tone of which did not stop it from becoming The Beatles’ most successful single.

“To the one who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you unblemished and exultant, in the presence of his glory to the only God, our savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord be glory, majesty, power, and authority from ages past, now, and for ages to come. Amen.” – (Jude 1:24-25)

St. Jude, pray for us!

Ellsberg, Robert. “All Saints.” New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2010.
Farmer, David. “Oxford Dictionary of Saints.” New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Heritage, Andrew, ed. “The Book of Saints: A Day-By-Day Illustrated Encyclopedia.” San Francisco: Weldonowen, 2012.

Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here