28th October, the feast day of Saints Simon and Jude.
Once, I knew someone who would have used the feast day instead of the date when writing letters. Correspondence written today would have “SS. Simon and Jude 2019” in lieu of 28th October.”
Jude is a saint whose seems to has become associated with mixed emotions. A church of which I was rector in Co Laois bore the saint’s name. In the parish of Offerlane, in the village of Coolrain, in the townland of Annatrim, Saint Jude’s Church was described by a colleague as “the church of four names.”
Mostly, the names used for the church were those of the parish, or the townland, the name that was disliked was that of Jude. A previous incumbent was alleged to have introduced the dedication because Saint Jude was said to have been the patron saint of lost causes, “the archdeacon thought we were a lost cause,” commented one member of the parish.
The association of one of the lesser-known members of the twelve apostles seems to have arisen from a fear of there being mistaken identity. Apparently, as the custom of praying to saints for their assistance developed, people avoided Jude for fear that it was thought that they were calling upon Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus to the authorities in the Garden of Gethsemane. It seems an odd thought – that saints, whose prayers were being sought by despairing humans might not know if they were the right person, and that the omniscient deity, whose help was believed to be the only remedy left, might ignore someone because they might not have been sufficiently specific about who they were asking. As it is, Jude is seen as a minor figure, coupled together with Simon the zealot, the Simon among the Twelve who was not renamed Peter, because they are said to have both died martyrs’ deaths in Beirut in 65 AD and they do not seem to have been regarded as individually meriting their own feast day.
Perhaps Jude is an early example of what happens when you don’t have a good publicist. Jude seems to have travelled extensively in his efforts to tell people of Jesus of Nazareth and there is no suggestion that he was anything other than as zealous as the other apostles in the faith that compelled him to act as he did. What Jude lacked was a succession of people who would spend centuries weaving tales of how important a man he was and how efficacious were prayers addressed to him. Were Jude to have lived in the present times, social media might have made him an altogether different figure.