Feast of St Simon and Jude
Today the Church celebrates the feast of saints Simon and Jude whose names occur together in the Canon of the Mass and are also celebrated on the same day. Possibly this is because they both preached the Gospel in Mesopotamia and Persia where it is said they had both been sent. According to ancient tradition, they were martyred together; St. Simon was sawed in half and St. Jude was beheaded with an axe. However, in in actual fact we know nothing for certain about them beyond what is told us of their being called as Apostles in the New Testament.
Saint Simon (not to be confused with St. Simon Peter) is represented in art with a saw, the instrument of his martyrdom. He is mentioned on all four lists of the apostles and on two of these lists he is called “the Zealot.” According to the Jewish historian Josephus, four main Jewish groups existed at the time of Christ – the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes and the Zealots. The Zealots were known for their aggression and violent behaviour. They were a Jewish sect that represented an extreme of Jewish nationalism They advocated that no one, but Yahweh alone should rule over Israel and hence, obedience to the Roman government should be refused. In their great zeal for honouring God and maintaining purity of religion they would assassinate nobles, filling the temple with bloodshed and profanities. For them, the messianic promise of the Old Testament meant that the Jews were to be a free and independent nation. God alone was their king, and any payment of taxes to the Romans, the very domination of the Romans, was a blasphemy against God. They were chiefly responsible for the rebellion against Rome which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. After meeting Christ and converting, St. Simon became zealous for Christ, in a good way. After Pentecost he went out and preached in Egypt.
Saint Judas Thaddeus (not the Iscariot), the brother of the apostle St. James the Lesser, was a cousin of the Lord, nephew to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This can be drawn from the passage in Scripture from Matthew 13:55, “Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?” The word “brothers” in Greek is adelphoi, which also means “cousin” or “relative” because there is no word for cousin in Hebrew. After receiving the Holy Spirit, he went to preach in Mesopotamia.
St. Jude is the author of a short Epistle which forms part of the New Testament. He wrote not to a particular person or audience, but rather to Christians as a whole, exhorting them to, “contend for the faith that was once for all handed down to the holy ones.” He warns against false teachings and encourages Christians to keep the faith pure. Scholars however hold that he is not the author of the Letter of Jude.
In Luke and Acts Jude is called by his name Judas. Matthew and Mark call him Thaddeus which means “the courageous heart”. He is not mentioned elsewhere in the Gospels, except of course where all the apostles are mentioned. Actually, Jude had the same name as Judas Iscariot. Evidently because of the disgrace of that name, it was shortened to “Jude” in English.
St Jude is one of the most popular saints in our world today, considering the fact that he is called as “The Miraculous Saint”. He is the one whose aid is often sought when all hope is lost, especially in grave illness & life-&-death situations.
Why is St Jude the patron saint of lost causes? That is not clear. Speculation is that the church understood people were reluctant to pray to St. Jude (Judas) since his name is identical with Judas Iscariot lest they “mistakenly prayed to the Iscariot.” They thus prayed to all the other apostles and when their prayer was still not heard, then in their ‘desperation’ and as a last resort they turned to St Jude. St Bridget of Sweden & St Bernard had visions from God asking each to accept St Jude as ‘Patron Saint of the Impossible’.
Like the name Jude Thaddeus, we are invited too, to have a “heart full of courage”. The Kingdom of God requires brave soldiers and people of immense valour.