Archive for November, 2012

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus:

We are just about to end the Church’s liturgical year, as next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. Once again the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus will be presented for us amid the events that 2012-2013 will bring to us. But also there will be the feast of Pentecost, the long series of feasts of Our Lord: Corpus Christi, The Sacred Heart, Christ the King, and of Our Lady, the Saints and feasts of the Church, not just as historical memories, but as different lights for our lives in the one light of Jesus, the Word made flesh. Now we are urged by the Church to look forward to the second coming of Jesus, both these past two weeks of the old year and in the first two weeks of Advent. It is in this context that Socius offers this reflection to our readers, and it deals with our continual response as the Body of Christ on earth to the Holiness of God.

 Father Jonathan

Nostalgia!  One definition of this word would have us understand that it is nothing more than a sentimental longing for the past – of recollections through ‘rose coloured glasses’ – and something we often do, but which should be avoided, for there is ‘no future in living in the past’.  However, it is something we all do from time to time; moreover, it is not just the preserve of those of middle age and older.  I have often heard youngsters coming out with the prelims, “I remember when….”, or “Do you remember when….”  In my own case, I cannot help but recollect the times when ‘such and such’ was the case, and these words are most often then followed by observations as to how things have changed over the years since that original state of affairs.  I think we are all students in time – all still learning – learning from lessons in the past; the past is still one of our best teachers, providing we are prepared to learn from it.  One old maxim I learned many years ago runs along the lines: “learn from yesterday, live for today and plan for tomorrow”.

For years before Vatican II, when attending Mass in Latin was the norm, an alter server would be required to sound the altar bell no less than thirteen times, three times at the ‘Sanctus’, once as the priest pronounced the words of blessing on the bread and wine, to be offered in sacrifice, six times at the Consecration and three times, again, at the ‘Domine non sum dignus’ (Lord, I am not worthy).  Today, we do not demand nearly so much muscular activity from those assisting at Mass, and the ‘Sanctus’, (Holy, Holy, Holy), at the conclusion of the ‘Preface’, which marks the start of the Canon of the Mass, is not accompanied by the ‘peal’ of three bells, as it once was.

  The towers of the huge Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona are decorated with the words: “Sanctus”, “Hosanna” and “Excelsis” 

It is to the ’Sanctus’ (Holy, Holy, Holy,) of the Mass that I now turn my attention.  As I said just a moment or two ago, the Latin ‘Sanctus’, translated as ‘Holy’ in English, comes at the end of the Preface and this takes us then into the most important part of the Mass: 

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus

Dominus Deus Sabaoth.

Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.

Hosanna in excelsis.

Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.

Hosanna in excelsis.


Holy, Holy, Holy

Lord God of hosts.

Heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest. 

In the ‘old days’, the bell would be rung as the priest intoned the words, “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus…”, and he would bow his head in adoration as he said them.  He would then continue, in lower voice, until he reached the second part of the ‘Hymn’ – the ‘Benedictus’ – at which point he would stand erect again, and make the Sign of the Cross, as he said the words: “Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini…” (“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord….”  Today, the congregation joins with the priest, and they say the words of the ‘Holy, Holy, Holy Lord’ together; the priest stands erect throughout, no ‘Sign of the Cross’ is made, and the bell does not sound. 

But, what is this all about?  What is its history and why is it so important?  The ‘Sanctus’, or ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’, is nothing less than a great hymn of praise to God.  The first part finds its origin in the Old Testament and Isaiah’s vision of heaven, in which God sits on his throne, surrounded by angels.  In Isaiah 6:3, it is said that: “And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” In the Jewish liturgy, the congregation prays this verse from Isaiah, as the cantor sings the 18 benedictions before opening the Ark of the Covenant.  It can be compared to the ‘Trisagion’ (Greek), or in Latin, the ‘Tersanctus’, often called by its opening line, the ‘Agios O Theos’, Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.”  In western Christianity, the ‘Agios O Theos’ is most often sung during the Good Friday Liturgy of the Passion. As to the second part of the Holy, Holy, Holy’, this comes from Matthew 21:9, in which the evangelist describes Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem, found in today’s Mass for Palm Sunday: 

“… the multitudes … cried, saying, 

Hosanna to the Son of David:

Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:

Hosanna in the highest.” 

The word ‘Hosanna’ is a Jewish word; its original meaning was ‘Save’, but, with the passage of time, the meaning has changed and it now is very much used as a word of ‘Praise’ to God.  As to the word, ‘Sabaoth’, used in the Latin text, I was always puzzled by the meaning of the word and its translation as ‘Hosts’.  Actually, the word is a very old Jewish word, correctly translated as ‘host’ or ‘army’, and most often, now in the plural, taken to mean hosts of angels, since it is today used almost exclusively as a title for God, viz. ‘The Lord God of Hosts’.

Icon of Christ, the Ancient of Days, fresco Ubisi, Georgia

The ‘Trisagion’ and the ‘Tersanctus’, it would seem, are not one and the same hymn of praise to God, and so much be distinguished from one another, though many authorities would argue that, inevitably, there must be some kind of association between the two. The former precedes the latter by eons, as the origins of the ‘Trisagion’ are of great antiquity.  The words, Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us,” according to tradition, came into being as a violent earthquake hit Constantinople during the first half of the 5th century, and the people were terrified for their lives.  They prayed to God for deliverance, and as they did so, a child was lifted up above their heads.  The cry then, by one and all, was ‘Kyrie eleison’ (Lord, have mercy.)  The child was brought back down to earth and he then shouted for the people to pray: “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal”.  All became calm and the child went to sleep, none the worse for his experience.  There are other theories that take its origin back even before this event – even to Apostolic times. 

But, to return to the ‘Sanctus’ and, as was said earlier, its place as a great hymn of praise to God.  In most ‘low’ Masses, it is said (or sung) by the priest, the congregation joining in according to their capabilities.  However, as one of the most important parts of the Liturgy, it has been taken by great composers the world over, and set to the most wonderful music – usually involving soloists, choirs and organ accompaniment.  On solemn occasions, for example as part of a Requiem Mass, it may be sung in plain chant – and many such arrangements have been composed for this purpose.  In all, wherever and whenever it is sung, there is no doubt that it often has that ability, to drive home the thought, that this is the high point of the Mass.  I can call to mind the great Sanctuses of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Duruflé, Fauré, Puccini, and Verdi – the list goes on and on.  All of them, each in their own individual fashion, bring the most wonderful sense of praise and thanksgiving, to this great hymn of praise to God.  That’s the music – but the words are right at the root; they harness our thoughts, our feelings, all our innermost and most secret outpourings of our hearts, and offer them up to God, Our Heavenly Father. And that’s what prayer is all about! 

Truly, and without question, the ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’, is one very great and wonderful prayer to Him.

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Hope Shines For Ever:

Each year, in November, we remember all the saints, and all who have died, on the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, November 1st and 2nd. These feast days seem to link, most appropriately,  with what is put before us by the Church at the end of November, in the 33rd Week of the Year, followed by the feast of Christ the King, and then the first two weeks of Advent: the Second coming of Jesus and the End of the World. This year, it struck home to me, that the teaching of the Second Coming, and the two feasts, can easily be linked.

 Mary with so many entering heaven under her mantle. 

The Saints are all dead! Nobody declares a person ‘a Saint’, officially, until after they have died, and usually, it is at least five years after death, before the Church considers them for canonization. For those who are left behind, once somebody they love has died, it can feel like ‘the end of the world’, i.e. feelings of sufferings, loss, fear, sadness and difficulty. But this is not the only way to look at such sad times, as the scriptures explain.


 All Souls Day celebrated in Dhaka 

This is how the second coming of Jesus was described last Sunday in the first reading: 

“There is going to be a time of great distress, unparalleled since nations first came into existence. ….Your own people will be spared, all those whose names are found written in the Book. Of those who lie sleeping in the dust of the earth, many will awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace. The learned will shine as brightly as the vault of heaven, and those who instructed many in virtue, as bright as stars for all eternity.” (Daniel 12; 1-3) 

The Gospel from St. Mark puts it like this: 

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘In those days, after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers of the world will be shaken. And then they will see the son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven. Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near….’ …Heaven and earth will pass away, by my words will not pass away” (Mark 13: 24-32) 

Many people, after losing somebody who was very close to them – somebody they loved, greatly,  feel an awful sense of emptiness; suddenly, all seems to have come to an end, and the future is bleak. Yet I have seen, among our Christian parishioners who are bereaved – not optimism, or joy, because of the loss that has happened – but something else. That something is the ability to live through the very great sadness they feel with dignity, and it is inspired by the virtue of hope. It is inspirational. 

When somebody close to us dies, it is also a moment of God, of the Second Coming of Jesus. Our own personal death will be the same. In fact, in Leyland, the Second Coming should be very prominent in our minds, because of our World Famous Ceramic at the front of the Church, under which we walk to enter: “He is seated at the right hand of God the father almighty, and he will come to judge the living and the dead”. During Mass we hear these words after the Our Father: “By the help of your mercy may we be always free from sin, and safe from all distress as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ”. 

The Second Coming is not just about things negative, although the first part of both the prophet Daniel, and the Gospel of Mark, of last week’s Sunday liturgy, are rather frightening. There are other phrases in both readings, above underlined and in italics, that have a gentle peace about them: “Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near:” (Mark 13: 28) – tender, supple life, gentle and fresh like new leaves in spring. Human existence often oscillates between fear and hope, even in those who are believers. Peter, one wind-swept day, walked on the stormy waters of Lake Galilee to meet Jesus, and as he did so, he became afraid and began to sink. Then, he felt the strength of that hand in his, pulling him out of the water “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt. 14: 31). We could ask each of our readers of the blog, today, who are believers: “Why do I doubt? Why do I continue to be so fearful?” In fact, there are so many who are left behind, and who are that inspiration of hope, in our own town of Leyland. 

Among many reasons why negative doubts, fear and unhappiness, dominate the gift of divine hope, there is one deep-rooted one. Because of contamination with worldly attitudes, a person can spiral down, to deep fears and anxieties, that are not what God wants for us; in fact, they oppose the knowledge, that faith and hope give us, of his personal love for each and every one of us. 

I can be afraid of losing what I have, and this may happen when I am strongly attached, in a worldly way, to my temporal way of life; it may be my incessant activity; it may be worldly possessions, a standard of living, a relationship, each a good in itself. Sometimes people who are truly afraid within, can put on a brave show by smiling, telling jokes, being the centre of attention, but inside they are a ‘cauldron’ of uncontrollable emotions, especially the fear of losing everything they hold dear. People, sadly, sometimes take their own lives because they feel they have lost everything; life is not worth living for them, as they feel they have lost all they possessed, and this to the detriment of those they love, their family and of God. 

There is yet another factor, among the many, that can cause despair and sadness. If, as I grow older and I reach the ‘grand old age’ of 60 – for myself, I am already well past that ‘young’ age – I want to have the same looks, the same energy as a 20 year old, it could lead to problems. How would I cope with serious illness, or loss of a job, say, with that attitude? If I do not try to love God, with all my heart, mind, soul and strength, situations overwhelm me. It could feel like the sun, the moon and the stars have fallen in, if I lost my health, or my job, depending on how attached I was, to all that God has given me. 

In all of this, I think, there is a real need to thank God for people who are as bright and shining, as those described in the book of Daniel: “the learned will shine as brightly as the vault of heaven, and those who have instructed many in virtue, as bright as stars for all eternity”. This is a very positive phrase and points us to good role models. If we could only aspire to this ideal, then this mode of thought would lead us to understand that the cold bleakness of winter will pass, as we see new shoots growing – strong, bringing new life. 

It is almost a truism to say people of hope will always be there: the just, the holy ones, the blessed who have before their eyes, the image of the first shoots of spring, and in their hearts, the wonderful gift of peace. These are the ones who can be our example here, and now, and they lead us to God. Some of those who have died in this past year may also fit in to this category, because of their outlook when they were alive among us; perhaps, all of them are, in their own way, for those who knew and loved them well. I have a very high regard for two monks, who died this past year, and for a Franciscan friar, each one a role model, for me, in a different way. They are Fr. Benedict Web (my housemaster at Ampleforth), Fr. Edmund Hatton, (my predecessor as Parish Priest of Brownedge) and Fr. Andrea Balbo OFM (the first co-ordinator of those who found the charism of unity a great help in Religious Life, through the Focolare Movement).

 Fr. Benedict Web OSB and Fr. Edmund Hatton OSB

Fr Andrea Balbo OFM with Fr. Theo Jansen OFMcap.

Yes, a Christian knows that one day Jesus will come again, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers of the world will be shaken. The world will come to an end; it is a fearful prospect, as is the experience of death. All is held in the loving plan of God, for the whole of Creation. Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away. The light of hope in God’s love shines for ever.

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Father Jonathan


It was early in the morning on a Monday of half term that my friend and I went up to the Lake District to go walking. It was his first visit to Leyland and I was delighted to have his company for a good walk on the fells, though I questioned how would it be, as it has been a long time since I have tackled any serious walking. It is a pastime I love and, in the event, it was not bad at all, just a bit of good old stiffness in a few limbs and, although a disorienting mist came down with ‘serious rain’ from time to time, we got by with help from friends we met on the walk. He had been a Queen’s Scout and was expert at taking a compass bearing said his wife, and indeed he led us safely down the Eskdale fells, above Grasmere. Without him, we would have been in some difficulty.

In the car, on the way back to Leyland, my friend said: “Do you mind if I ask you some serious questions?” I had got to know him well and was delighted to respond. So he began: “I wonder why Jesus was born when he was, 2,000 years ago in the Holy Land. Of course the world was in a bad state then but why did he not choose to be born today, when the world is much worse off than in those days, as far as I can tell. In fact I wonder what difference has Christianity really made to our world over these years?”

Nobody had ever put that question to me before, and, since raised, it has made me ponder quite a lot, because I am sure it came as the result of some serious thought. Readers may empathise with it. Has the coming of Jesus made a difference?  I realise now, twelve days after the event, that of course Jesus’ presence, today, is very real in this world, as it always has been since his Resurrection. It is we, ourselves, who put up a barrier, making us think that God, or Jesus, is remote from us.  I thought of the many people, like me, who belong to Religious Orders in the world, and their presence is a sure sign that Jesus’ work, leading to the foundation of the Church, has made a big impact. How much good has been done, and is still being done, in the fields of education, health care, social action, even in scientific and human progress – to name just a few – because of those in Religious Life within the Church.

Remembrance Day, Sunday 11 November 2012.

Just four days ago on Remembrance Sunday, we had four ministers, two Anglicans, an Orthodox and myself, at the South Ribble Borough Council Remembrance Service, held in St. Mary’s Leyland. We happily shared the prayers and readings and gave a joint blessing at the end of the service, all signs of hope for the Church of the future; present also were the 400, or so, of all denominations, (and none), present to pray with the whole of Britain, for peace in our world, and to honour and pray for all who have given their lives in war. This could not have happened without Jesus.

Some of the Congregation at the Remembrance Day Service

The prayer, communally, was a wonderful witness of all that can happen, to bring many of the varied opinions, together in a common cause; all this must be based on the truths of Christian belief.

Giving back the standards at the end of the Service

On Tuesday, I had the privilege to preside at the Requiem Mass of Berna Banks. Not many attended her funeral, yet here was a most remarkable person being remembered and  buried. She was a Prestonian through and through, and only came to Leyland in the mid 1980’s. She, and her husband, George, very quickly got fully involved in our Parish life – not easy when new friends had to be made. However, they achieved this, and their actions are a tribute to their integrity. Hardly any Parish event went by without Berna and George being involved. He was a minister of the Eucharist, and the couple frequented St. Anne’s School Mass centre, on a Sunday, where we had Mass at 10am. Later, she was always at St. Mary’s.

Berna Banks with her husband George in 1998 on their Golden Wedding

day just before George died.

Eventually, in July 1998, George died, and I had many personal conversations with Berna to arrange his funeral.  Her quality of life struck me forcibly. She had then lost her husband, and friend of 50 years, yet she remained calm and serene, positive and up-beat. My estimation of her went up, and up, as she, happily lived on with her confident and positive outlook, over the next 12 or so years. Of course, she declined in health, and was unable to get to Mass sometimes. But, that was all part of it. Later, she had to wear a patch over one of her eyes; it did not remove her cheerfulness. About three weeks ago, I visited her at the nursing home in Longton, where she was very well tended. Lying there on her hospital bed, she had the same outlook as ever. Never sorry for herself, she was interested in many events, and still had that positive and realistic attitude concerning her own situation. Berna was quite a remarkable human being, in my estimation, and all of us who knew her, can claim to be the better for that knowledge of her. She was a great example; one from whom we can all learn.

After her death, her family found some of her writings in a note book; they give us a key, enabling us to begin to understand something of her serenity, and her loving trust. She was a strong, intelligent person, a strict mother, a devout Catholic, who knew God, and loved him; unquestionably, she loved all her family and others. Of course, she came to know God by faith; but faith is knowledge, and she talked to him; below is something she wrote, herself. It happens to be her adaptation of Cardinal Newman’s prayer, and I now reproduce it exactly as written (though not, regretfully, in her own neat hand-writing). At the end, she could have added, “adapted by me, from Cardinal Newman”.

My God you have created me to do you some definite service.

You have given some definite work to me which you have not given to any other.

I had my place in your plan. I may never know what it is in this life, but I will be told in the next.

Therefore I will trust you in all things.

If I am sick, my sickness may serve you.

If I am worried, my worry may serve you.

If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve you.

You do nothing in vain, you know what your are doing.

You may take away my friends; you may put me among strangers.

You may make me feel forgotten: you may make my spirits sink.

You may hide my future from me;

Still you know what your are doing,

And I trust you, Amen. (Cardinal Newman)

The sentence below the above reflection, also written in her own hand, is entirely her own creation:

God is my loving father, my dear brother and redeemer, my indwelling friend now and forever.

The coming of Jesus into this world, 2,000 years ago, and the subsequent formation of the Church, has been an immeasurably positive force, in the world, ever since. Yes, evil, sin, despair, war, violence and hatred remain, but, how much worse it would have been, had nobody taught us what unselfish love means, as Jesus did, or opened up knowledge of God for us. To go back to the beginning, I thank my friend for his question, as we returned tired and content, from our walk up Eskdale ten days ago. That burning question has made me think, and appreciate, something more of this mysterious life we live, hopefully, in union with God, whom Jesus reveals to us.

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Love Your Neighbour As Yourself:

This year, with my friends in the Focolare Movement, I am being asked to deepen that mysterious saying of Jesus, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’, a phrase which Our Lord puts next to the first, and only Commandment. It is a wonderful programme of a whole year’s practical ‘in-service’ training.

Most of those at a Focolare Mariapolis in 2011 in Wales

 In the New Testament, we find a consistent teaching, to the effect that, if we say we love the God we cannot see, but do not love the neighbour next to us that we do see, then we are not loving God at all! Without spending too much time on this issue, the phrase Jesus uses in the ‘Our Father’, is also very much to the point: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. 

My experience demonstrates that the best way to know Jesus, or God, or the Holy Spirit, (i.e. receive his salvation, his presence, what we call ‘grace’), is through the forgiveness of our sins, and this is utterly linked to the way I consider – treat – my neighbour. I can say, in all truth, that if I want to love God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind and with all my strength, then the ‘pathway’ – the method – is through the love of my neighbour. It is only by God’s gift (grace) that I am able to love God and my neighbour, and the conclusion to which I am driven here, is that the two Commandments we invariably quote, are really just One Commandment.

Recently, I have been in the company of people who have commented on the challenges of being disciples of Jesus. One comment was made in relation to last Sunday’s Gospel, and this throws out a challenge, focused precisely  on the ‘Focolare’ programme for the year:

“At Church today we heard all about love, and we were told that we should love everybody to be a disciple of Jesus. But how can I love those who have really hurt me badly? I find I hate them?”  

The person who asked this incisive question happens to be an unbaptized, intelligent young mother, who attends our sessions of ‘Journey in Faith’.   Now, I ask: “Who can answer such a question from human logic?” As I did not want to give an unhelpful ‘stereotyped’ answer, I left it first to the others to make their comments known.  One said:

“I have found that it is best, for your own good, not to hate others. It does nothing except make you yourself more agitated, so it is far better just to let go of your own feelings and let it pass over your head. It does no good to have hateful feelings anyway.” 

Another said: 

“I think it is possible to hate the bad thing, the evil, the really heinous act that has happened. I can reject and hate that. But the person who did it is another thing. I do not have to hate them”. 

Still another commented:

I have had bad things done to me by my family. I find that I did hate them but things pass over, and family ties are there. I cannot deny they are my own flesh and blood. I do not wish them any harm, but I would not invite those particular family members into my close personal life again. If they were in need I would help them. There is no need to make them a really close friend but I do not have to hate them”. 

Another shared his experience about a close relative, who it is very ‘difficult to love’, and more so for his wife and daughter than himself. Somehow, he has put what happened behind him, and can tolerate the family member.  Another found it not such a difficulty not to hate others, but agreed that if somebody really hurt her child she would find it difficult not to retaliate.

At the end of this discussion, I found myself quoting Jesus from the Gospel: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; if a person strikes you on one cheek, offer him the other etc. etc.” Jesus is quite clear – there is another way; he does not compromise about ‘loving everybody’; but how does one achieve it? How would you love a ‘Hitler’ or a ‘Stalin’?  To help solve the ‘Hitler’ or ‘Stalin’ challenge, somebody once pointed out that, when they were born as a baby, their mothers must have loved them.

I pointed out that we are all on a ‘journey in faith’, and that when we are baptized we are ‘in Christ’. So, it is possible to put on the mind of Christ, and that is the aim of the Christian life; however, we won’t achieve it all the time, even if, by the grace of God, we can ‘give ourselves to God’. I experience that I go, ‘in’ and ‘out’ of the mind of Christ, according to my mood, or according to the events that have happened – particularly, if I have let the ‘old-man-in-me’ take over. I suspect that it is all linked to Jesus’ words: “I come from above, you come from below”. Our task is to enter where he lives, in what Jesus calls, ‘the above’. It is all a gift of grace, to ‘be in Christ’, and, as all of us have different temperaments, different experiences of life, different ways of behaving, each person has to make a step of trusting faith, in their own appropriate way.

At the end of the day, the matter would be resolved if I really did ‘know Jesus’. Once I know him, then I can think, and love, in his way, not in my own purely ‘human’ way. The prayer I would urge all to make, is firstly, that ‘I know that Jesus loves me immensely’, then, ‘I do his will’, then ‘I listen and take to myself his Word that teaches me his will’;  overall, I pray always that God’s grace will always be in me.

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Last Sunday, 28th October, was the Feast Day of SS. Simon and Jude.

Jude, the Apostle, by Anthonis van Dyck

I think that, throughout the faithful of the Catholic Church, St. Jude is very well known as the ‘patron saint of lost causes’ – a wonderful helper to those who resort to him, and seek his help, when all else appears to be hopeless. However, I wonder what sort of proportion would be aware of just why he is famous for helping those ‘at the end of their tether’.  In my own case, I am not sure that I could have answered this question, correctly, without first having done some research into his life. 

The origin of this aspect of this great saint’s patronage comes from a letter he wrote – the General Epistle of Jude, part of the New Testament that was addressed to the Churches of the East – especially the Jewish converts.  Ultimately, it was directed against the heresies that were seen to be arising at that time. In his letter, he points out to the faithful that they should keep the faith, persevering in the environment of harsh and difficult circumstances, just as their forefathers had done before them.

But, who was Jude?  Though little is known about his life from the gospels, he was one of Jesus’ Twelve Apostles and was variously known as Jude, Jude Thaddeus, Jude of James, (no doubt because he was the brother of St. James the Less), Judas Thaddeus, (sometimes referred to as Lebbaeus).  Jude and Judas were variations of the name ‘Judah’. However, and although the naming culture of those days seems to make little or no distinction between ‘Jude’ and ‘Judas’, clearly he is to be distinguished from Judas Iscariot, the Apostle who was later to betray Jesus.  It is thought that he was a cousin of Jesus, in that his Mother, also called Mary, was sister to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. 

Jude (or Judas) is mentioned, at most, just three times in the New Testament.  He is listed as one of the Twelve, at Luke 6:16 “And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.”  In Acts 1:13, after the Resurrection, he is listed as one of those who resorted to the Upper Room, and again he is named as Judas, the brother of James.  There is one further mention, and this occurs in John 14:22, wherein it is said: “Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not to the world?” 

After the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, it is thought that St. Jude travelled throughout Judea, Samaria,, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, Libya, and Persia, preaching and converting many to Christianity.  With Bartholomew, it is believed the two were traditionally the first to bring Christianity to Armenia.  They are venerated still as patron saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

 Mosaic Commemorating St. Jude’s Execution, St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church, Philadelphia

Armenian tradition also has it that he was martyred, by being beheaded, with St. Simon – the two are very often connected – around 65 AD, in Beirut, then part of the Roman province of Syria, and at some point after his execution, his body was brought to Rome and placed in a crypt in St. Peter’s Basilica; his remains are venerated by many of his devotees to this day.

St. Jude is often shown dressed in green and white Biblical-era clothing, for he was one of the Disciples of Jesus; at the same time, he is usually pictured wearing, or holding, a golden metal image of Jesus, since legend has it that Jesus had been asked by the King of Edessa to cure him of leprosy, and had sent an artist to bring back to him an image of Our Lord.  Jesus, impressed with this show of faith, had taken a towel, and had held it to his own face, so that his own image was left imprinted thereon, and had given this to St. Jude to take back to the King.  At this the King was cured; he converted to Christianity, along with many of his subjects.  St. Jude is also sometimes shown with a small flame atop his head, this to represent the fact that he was present when the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles, confirming them at Pentecost, with tongues of fire. 

As to the devotional followings, it is said that Jesus, himself, inspired devotion to St. Jude when he directed St. Bridget of Sweden to turn to St. Jude with great faith and confidence. In accordance with his surname, Thaddeus (which means generous, courageous, kind), Our Lord said, “He will show himself most willing to give help.”  The renowned St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who died in 1153 and who was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1830, is reputed to have had a strong personal dedication to St. Jude. 

Today, millions of people around the world turn to St. Jude, patron saint of seemingly impossible or difficult causes, when they feel most helpless and alone. St. Jude has proven to be a true friend and a beacon of hope to those who call on him.  It is customary to make a vow that if he helps when called upon, one will publish a notice of thanks in the newspaper, traditionally most often in ‘The Times’.  Thus, the personal columns often carry the short word of thanks: “Thank you, St. Jude”, or “Thanks to St. Jude for help in answer to my prayers”, each of these being evidence of the continuing and growing devotion to this great saint.  Today, such messages of prayers and thanks can be seen posted into the Catholic prayer websites.  His feast day (together with St. Simon) is held annually on 28 October. 

Form of Prayer to St. Jude: 

O most holy apostle, Saint Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honours and invokes thee universally, as the patron of hopeless cases, and of things almost despaired of. Pray for me, who am so miserable. Make use, I implore thee, of that particular privilege accorded to thee, to bring visible and speedy help where help was almost despaired of. Come to mine assistance in this great need, that I may receive the consolation and succour of Heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly (here make your request) and that I may praise God with thee and all the elect throughout eternity. I promise thee, O blessed Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favour, to always honour thee as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to thee.  Amen.


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