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Hopelessly devoted to Jude.

WE CATHOLICS, THANK GOD, HAVE our stories. Many wonderful stories. We have Old Testament stories that we share with Jews and other Christians: Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, Esther, Ruth, and, perhaps especially, Job.

We have our New Testament stories, too, that we share with other Christians. The birth, life, and death of Jesus; his Baptism by John the Baptizer; his Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection; the Sermon on the Mount, the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and the beautiful parables of the Good Samaritan, good and bad seed, and so many meaningful others.

Then there are the stories of the Virgin Mary, few but colorful in the New Testament. The tidings brought to her by an angel, her visit to Elizabeth with her splendid Magnificat, the child lost in the Temple, and the wedding feast at Cana. These stories of the Mother of God we Catholics share with other Christians and even some Muslims.

The stories of the saints--men and women of heroic virtue, one at least for every day of the year--enrich the lives of Catholics and others. And, as Robert Ellsberg has shown us in his fine, new book, All Saints (Crossroad, 1997), Catholics and non-Catholics are enriched by "secular saints" like Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Oskar Schindler.

But devotion to saints may largely belong to us Catholics. Others, of course, pray as we do--to God, Jesus, and even departed relatives and friends, asking for help or for the grace we need in our lives. Devotional prayers to specific saints, however, may be uniquely Catholic. In them we ask a patron, or maybe just a favorite saint, to pray with us to God that a "favor" that we seek or need will be granted.

Many in our calendar of saints have come to be known as patrons of certain causes: for the cure of cancer, for example; for pregnant women that they may have a safe delivery; for those in special need of protection. These customs don't arise from the teaching church; they arise from the sense of the faithful. They are, in a way, like customs of any kind, handed down from generation to generation.

Interestingly, some devotions to certain saints come into being in the face of a specific problem in history--in time of war, for example, or plague, and these devotions fade away as the problem does.

But a devotion to a saint that can be called unique is devotion to the apostle Saint Jude. This devotion is unequaled, in the first place, because no other saintly devotion has existed since the time of Jesus and persists today

more strongly than ever. Second, devotion to Saint Jude has persisted over centuries despite the fact that so little is known about his life.

Regarding the constancy of devotion to a saint who has become popularly known as "the saint of the impossible" or "the patron of hopeless causes," scholar, John M. Lozano, writes: "Of all the wonders that devout people have attributed to Saint Jude over the years, perhaps the greatest is that people are so devoted to Saint Jude. Even though great saints of the church--Saint Ambrose, Saint Jerome, and particularly Saint Bernard of Clairvaux--write admirably of Saint Jude, and others such as Saint Bridget of Sweden were known to be devoted to him, devotion to Saint Jude did not become widespread until this century.

"Some believe that Saint Jude was neglected because people confused him with Judas Iscariot, Christ's betrayer. Whatever the reason, popular devotion to Saint Jude is not only a recent phenomenon but, remarkably, has grown to be the strongest devotion to a saint in the Catholic Church, other than devotion to Mary, the Mother of the Lord."

And the fact remains that Jude is the only one of the 12 apostles to whom devotion has arisen. There is no devotion to Saint Peter, to the beloved apostle Saint John, or even to the peripheral apostle, Saint Paul.

In a splendid new book titled Jude: A Pilgrimage to the Saint of Last Resort (HarperCollins, 1998), Liz Trotta has explored the story of Saint Jude more thoroughly than any previous writer. She has followed the trail of the elusive saint indefati gably, traveling to the Middle East, to Rome, and to various parts of the United States, such as the National Shrine of Saint Jude in Chicago, where remarkable and spontaneous devotion is observed.

Saint Jude, we have come to know, fanned out from Jerusalem after the Ascension of Jesus, sometimes in the company of his fellow apostle Saint Simon, bringing the teachings of Jesus to people who were either pagan or worshipers of "strange gods."

The story of Saint Jude and devotion to him is a thrilling one, one that is endlessly rewarding and for which we can only thank God.
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Author:Burns, Robert E.
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 1999
Previous Article:The nature of joy.

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