“You’re coming here today to make a friend,” Father Carlos Martins told the full church. “You’re not meeting bones – you’re meeting a person.”
Father Martins was celebrating a special Mass in honor of St. Jude Thaddeus, whose relic was on display for public veneration at St. Jude Parish in South Bend on Saturday, October 7. Father Martins is the director of the relic’s tour and the guardian of the relic during its sojourn in the United States, which made two stops in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend – first at St. Jude in South Bend and then at Our Lady of Good Hope Parish in Fort Wayne on Sunday, October 8.
“It is a great grace to be in the presence of a relic,” said Father Martins, who noted that St. Jude, in particular, is special because he was not only a saint but also an apostle – and not only an apostle but also a blood relative of Jesus.
“Many, many times, this arm hugged Our Lord,” Father Martins said, gesturing to the reliquary.
After his time with Our Lord, St. Jude proclaimed the Gospel in modern day Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, and other areas in the Middle East. St. Jude traveled with St. Simon, another of the apostles. St. Jude was martyred around A.D. 65 by being clubbed and beheaded with an axe.
As Father Martins explained in his homily to those gathered in South Bend, there have been many miracles over the centuries and around the world attributed to St. Jude. One of the most famous is associated with the city of Edessa, located in modern-day Turkey. During Jesus’ earthly life, Edessa’s sick ruler Abgar is said to have received an image of Our Lord on a piece of cloth as a promise that God would send someone for Abgar’s healing. After Jesus’ death, St. Jude came to Abgar and healed the king from his sickness.
St. Jude has shrines in most continents around the world, but there was a period when his popularity waned among Christians. Part of this, as Father Martins explained, was because of St. Jude’s misfortune of having the same name as Jesus’ betrayer, Judas Iscariot. Only a couple languages, English included, abbreviate Jude’s name to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot.
However, this also contributed to St. Jude being known as the “Apostle of the Impossible.” When Christians in distress had invoked every other saint they could think of, Father Martins said, they tried St. Jude last because they had nothing to lose. When the miracles kept happening, people realized that St. Jude was a powerful intercessor. St. Jude has borne the title of patron saint of desperate cases for centuries.
Heather Buison, Director of Faith Formation at St. Jude Parish, called the relic’s visit “an honor and a blessing.” St. Jude Parish is currently celebrating its 75th anniversary jubilee, which began on St. Jude’s feast day last year (October 28) and will continue through that date this year. “The visit is a wonderful opportunity for a spiritual event celebrating our patron saint,” Buison said.
Buison was a key organizer at the parish for the relic’s visit, advertising within and outside of the parish, setting up the exhibit and souvenir tables, and organizing volunteers. She was also involved in the practical details of moving the reliquary itself.
“The reliquary is very heavy,” Buison said, noting that the exhibit’s different pieces add up to a couple thousand pounds. In fact, this is the first time the relic has traveled outside of Rome for centuries. St. Jude’s body was moved to Rome in the time of Constantine and has been at rest in St. Peter’s Basilica since. The arm bones were separated from the rest of the body centuries ago and housed in a separate reliquary, which is the reliquary currently on tour. Part of the hope for the tour is that people will donate to restore the damaged dome at the Roman church housing this reliquary – San Salvatore in Lauro. There is also hope that donations will allow the relic to travel farther in the United States than originally planned.
There are greater hopes for the tour than just the material, of course. Father John Delaney, Pastor of St. Jude Parish in South Bend, told Today’s Catholic that “the Vatican wanted to allow this very special relic [to] travel outside of Rome – a first, from my understanding – to help bring many of the faithful together at a time when there is so much division among people politically, but also even within the Church.” He added, “The pastoral benefits, by the grace of God, will outweigh any personal reason we had as a parish in welcoming the relic here for our 75th [anniversary].”
More than 450 pilgrims visited the relic during its stay
in South Bend, including the Gergely family, who drove from near Kalamazoo, Michigan. As Chris Gergely explained, his men’s group has been visiting shrines with their families for a while. They call it the “Drive for Five,” as the tradition originated with five first Saturday visits of holy sites.
Chris’s wife, Colleen Gergely, noted how pilgrims are encouraged to touch the glass of the reliquary. “There’s a healing that takes place when you touch these relics. I believe that strongly,” she said. She added that every pilgrim experiences healing, whether emotional, spiritual, or physical.
Ryan Basler, another member of the “Drive for Five,” said of the visit: “You’re trying to create something for your kids to remember as well. This is important – the saints are still fully living with us today.”
The relic of St. Jude visited Fort Wayne on Sunday, October 8, at Our Lady of Good Hope Parish. Ahead of the relic’s visit, Father Mark Gurtner, Pastor of Our Lady of Good Hope, said: “My hope is that through the graces God allows to come from the visit of the relic, many people will feel the closeness and love of God, that He really cares for them. I hope, too, that even some miracles will take place through the intercession of St. Jude – physical healings, spiritual healings, emotional healings. I have found myself personally devoted to the relics of saints and have had the opportunity to visit many saints’ relics and burial places throughout the world.”
For more information on the tour, including photos of the relic, a schedule of the tour, and how to donate, visit apostleoftheimpossible.com. To view a recording of the special Mass at Our Lady of Good Hope in honor of St. Jude, visit facebook.com/ourladyofgoodhope.
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