The Feast of Saints Simon and Jude is upon us today. Very little historical information is known about these two. Simon is sometimes referred to as a member of the Zealot party, a group that struggled against the Roman occupation of Israel. Jude is sometimes called Thaddeus or Judas. New Testament translations abbreviated his name to Jude in order to avoid confusion with Judas Iscariot, the traitor. The names of the Twelve highlight the fact that there were far fewer names used in the first century. The Twelve includes two named Simon, two named Judas, and two named James. Both Simon and Jude may have been cousins of Jesus although there is no way to substantiate that claim other than a verse from the Gospel of St. Mark (6:3)
The various legends that surround the efforts of these two apostles associate the two as fellow evangelizers in the Middle East. Accounts of their martyrdoms vary from the story that says that St. Jude was beaten to death with a club to the one that says that St. Simon was sawn in half in Persia. There are also accounts that relate that they were crucified.
Today, St. Jude is known as the patron of the desperate. This probably stems from the fact that when Christians asked the intercession of the apostles in their prayers, they usually would pray to St. Jude as a last resort lest they be accused of asking the intercession of the infamous traitor with the same name.
As fascinating as the accounts of their lives may be, the main reason they are celebrated is the fact that they were responsible with their fellow apostles for spreading the Gospel message after Jesus returned to the Father. They stand as examples of what can be done through the efforts of a few through determination, perseverance, and faithfulness.
Desperation is nothing new in the human scene. Many people find themselves in dire straits with no apparent way out. I had the experience of preaching a novena in honor of St. Jude some years ago. The practice in vogue at the time was for the preacher to make his way to the confessional after the sermon where he could be available for consultation. It was in that experience that I learned that sometimes people find themselves in terribly desperate situations where all they can do is pray for strength to bear the hardships that have come their way. Some of these people could have given Job a run for his money.
As we keep this feastday, let us cling to the Gospel they proclaimed. At the same time, let us pray that God will continue to be a source of relief for the many people who find themselves trapped in desperate situations.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator