If you’re praying for what seems like an impossible cause, you’re not alone. On the earthly pilgrimage to our heavenly home, many of us face situations that seem hopeless. At times like these, it can be easy to surrender to despair and to abandon hope. The cross that Christ offers may seem unbearably heavy.
Today is the feast day of St. Jude, patron saint of seemingly impossible or lost causes and desperate situations. He was one of the original twelve called by Jesus to follow Him as an apostle. After Christ’s Ascension, Jude preached with great passion, often in the most difficult circumstances, in Judea, Samaria, Syria, Mesopotamia, Libya, and Armenia. Jude shares his feast, October 28, with another of the original apostles, St. Simon, because they preached and died together as martyrs in Syria around 65 A.D.
St. Jude is the patron saint of impossible causes because he urges Christians to stay close to Christ during difficult times. He is traditionally depicted carrying the image of Jesus in his hand—a reminder that each of us is called to bring Christ to others.
Celebrating the Novena to St. Jude
I learned about St. Jude at my home parish, St. Dominic’s Church in San Francisco, which houses the Shrine of St. Jude. Each year, the Shrine organizes a preached novena and pilgrimage to celebrate today’s feast. Hundreds of devotees have attended the novena Masses over the past eight days. Thousands of pilgrims will walk in procession with the statue of St. Jude through the city of San Francisco this morning, culminating in a final novena Mass at St. Dominic’s.
A novena is a period of prayer lasting nine days, as a means of deepening one’s spiritual life, expressing devotion to a saint, or petitioning God for a particular grace. Many of those who come seeking St. Jude’s special intercession pray for healing, for themselves or for loved ones. Oftentimes it can be a physical healing. Sometimes it can be a spiritual healing.
In my case, novenas to St. Jude have given me great spiritual healing. They have given me the grace to accept God’s holy will even if it is difficult and painful for me. The fruit of these novenas have been personal growth in faith, hope, and love in the grace of Christ. St. Jude, you loved Christ, help me to love Him more.
You can celebrate today’s feast by starting a novena of prayers to St. Jude to ask his intercession for your own needs or for the needs of others. Perhaps you can pray for physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual health; for strength and courage to overcome a habitual failing; for a family member’s conversion or return to the sacraments; for a friend who is looking for work, or in thanksgiving for blessings received.
What You Can Expect from a Novena
A novena to St. Jude never fails for those who maintain a firm foundation of faith that God is always working behind the scenes for us. For some people, by the end of the nine days, they will see some visible, concrete proof that their request has been granted. For others, they may receive something that is not what they asked for, but turns out to be what they really needed at this point in their lives. And for others, they may experience a newfound sense of hope and peace of spirit, that brings with it the awareness they are not going through their difficulties alone.
The beautiful power of the novena is that people can have their requests answered in ways or times they may not have expected. What’s most important: Believe that you will experience a change, and don’t despair if you do not receive an instant answer. Often the path to finding true healing of mind, body, or spirit is a process that will only be fully visible and appreciated after an extended period of time. Praying a novena can be a first step in that process.
Whatever you do, don’t stop hoping, don’t stop trusting, and don’t stop trying.
Hope for the Hopeless
St. Jude is known as the patron saint of desperate situations, of hopeless causes. But I truly believe there is no such thing as a hopeless cause. With Jesus, there is always hope, “for nothing will be impossible for God” (Lk 1:37), and St. Jude reminds us of this. Carrying the image of Christ, he reminds us of where our hope lies. And St. Jude stands ready to intercede for us, that we have our hope renewed and be open to the graces of God.
St. Jude, pray for us.
© Maria Vickroy-Peralta 2017. Image: Tara Clemens.