Who Is St. Jude Thaddeus?
Jude is Aramaic for support of God. Jude Thaddeus was the brother of James the Less and author of the New Testament epistle named after him. The epistle isn’t addressed to any particular Christian community; rather, it’s a general exhortation concerning the scandalous behavior of some converts who have no intention of following the Lord.
After the commissioning of the 12 Apostles, Jude aligned with Simon and went to preach the Gospel in Persia. There he was martyred by being clubbed to death. He’s often pictured holding or resting on this instrument of torture.
In Catholicism, St. Jude became the patron saint of lost causes partially because he was often mistaken for Christ’s betrayer, Judas (Jude) Iscariot, as they had the same first name.
Galilee (first century a.d.)
Patron: lost causes, hopeless cases, impossible burdens
Feast day: October 28
This devotion as patron of desperate cases has two celebrated shrines in the United States. The first, in Chicago, was built as a place of hope for people hit hard by the Great Depression. The other is in Baltimore, the famous St. Jude Shrine on Paca Street, founded by Italians in 1873. The devotion to St. Jude at this church expanded during World War II, and many prayed for the safe return of the nation’s armed service men and women. Today, St. Jude’s Shrine in Baltimore is still a popular pilgrim destination for East Coast Catholics.
Another famous place is St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Actor Danny Thomas prayed to St. Jude Thaddeus in the early 1950s when he was a young, unknown, and struggling entertainer with a baby on the way. Penniless, he promised St. Jude he would build a shrine if the saint would intercede on his behalf before the Lord. Soon his career in television took off, but he never forgot his promise and helped build the now-famous children’s hospital in honor of St. Jude, who had helped him many years before.