There is often a crosshatch of bloody scratches on the right cheek of statues of the suffering Christ in Latin America. It’s called the “Judas Kiss,” a reminder of Judas Iscariot’s act of both affectionately greeting Christ and betraying Him in one sinister gesture. No one kneels before a statue of Judas Iscariot in a Catholic church. No one lights a candle to Judas asking that he restore their lost sight or heal their child’s cancer. But Judas Iscariot wasn’t the only Judas among the Twelve Apostles. Today’s Saint Jude (or Judas) was often confused with his evil contemporary.
Since Judas Iscariot was so despised and ignored, and since he shared a name with the good Jude, a tradition gathered over the centuries of petitioning today’ssaint only when all other saints had failed to answer one’s prayers. Saint Jude became the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes, then, probably because of the faithful’s reluctance to seek the intercession of one whose misfortune it was to share a name with Christ’s betrayer. Out of confusion or an abundance of caution, Saint Jude thus became a saint of last resort. When the dam was barely holding, when a pulse could no longer be felt, when the rains wouldn’t come, a candle was lit to Saint Jude, hoping against hope, that he would respond.
Saint Simon the Apostle is called the “Zealot” in Saint Luke’s Gospel. This may describe his zeal for the house of the Lord or denote his membership in a radical Jewish sect. Zeal is, in any case, a virtue. It must be joined with prudence to ensure that it does not offend for the sake of offending. A zealous soul will, however, lovingly provoke others to consider the things of God through his words, actions, and appropriate silences. Zeal for the house of the Lord has migrated to other concerns in many parts of today’s world.
While religious zeal has unfortunately come to be understood as a negative virtue, zeal for planet earth and various other more “acceptable” causes are now seen as positive. The intentional disciple, however, understands zeal in its historical sense as a burning concern for perennial truths, not mere fads, and as a proactive form of love for all those things that lead mankind to God. God is a person, after all, and depends on His friends to defend Him.
Saints Simon and Jude disappear from the pages of the Gospels after the brief mentions of their names. Nothing is known of either of them with any certainty, not even where they evangelized or where they met death. As Apostles, however, we know with certainty that they were key actors in laying the deep foundations of the Church in the rock-solid substrata of the Middle Eastern culture in which they lived. The Catholic Church is the household of faith. An earthly family is united by blood, while the theological family of the Church is united by the Sacraments and the Creed.
But it is not sufficient for a family to be united by biological or theological DNA. A family is little if it is not a household. A household works together, prays together, and eats together. A household is where a family feels like a family. A boy may know who his father is, but if he doesn’t share everyday life with that father, their family relationship means little. It is in the household that life happens all over the globe. Mom and dad, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, in the kitchen, around the table, in the garden, at Mass, a band united in both mundane and sacred duties.
The Church is the household of faith where God’s family gathers week in and week out, century after century. Christians must not only be united intellectually, but must live united, and feel that unity in their bones. Today’s saints worked long ago to build the household we now enjoy. They dug the well so that we could pull up the water and drink. They planted so that we could reap. They lit the fire so that we could warm ourselves close to the flames, one universal family living in one universal household we call the Church.
Saints Simon and Jude, we ask for your intercession in heaven as members of the Twelve Apostles. Approach the Lord Jesus with our needs in your hands. Answer the prayers we present. Fulfill the petitions we seek.
As in the case of all the apostles except for Peter, James and John, we are faced with men who are really unknown, and we are struck by the fact that their holiness is simply taken to be a gift of Christ. He chose some unlikely people: a former Zealot, a former (crooked) tax collector, an impetuous fisherman, two “sons of thunder,” and a man named Judas Iscariot.
It is a reminder that we cannot receive too often. Holiness does not depend on human merit, culture, personality, effort, or achievement. It is entirely God’s creation and gift. God needs no Zealots to bring about the kingdom by force. Jude, like all the saints, is the saint of the impossible: Only God can create his divine life in human beings. And God wills to do so, for all of us.
They are Patron Saints of:
Desperate Situations/Hopeless Causes (St. Jude) and Tanners (St. Simon)