Friday, May 27, 2016

Build Yourself Up

Build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. On those who waver, have mercy; save others by snatching them out of the fire; on others have mercy with fear, abhorring even the outer garment stained by the flesh. Jude 20-23

"Show me my way in life and I will build you a shrine."
-Danny Thomas' prayer to St. Jude Thaddeus


The short Letter of Jude (from which comes the first reading today) is the penultimate book in the Bible.  After it only comes Revelation – a book that has an ethereal, future look to it.  Jude, however, is grounded in preparing the disciples for the day-to-day work of mission here and now.  Passages from it rarely appear in the daily readings.  Today is the only day in Cycles A, B, or C when we encounter the letter.  Yet St. Jude has a rich history in both Church tradition and in modern culture.

We Roman Catholics invoke St. Jude (Thaddeus) when in desperate situations because his New Testament letter stresses that the faithful should persevere in the environment of harsh, difficult circumstances -just as their forefathers had done before them; therefore, he is the patron saint of hope and for overcoming desperate cases.[i]

What way in life does St. Jude tell people to work on at the end of the first century of the Christian era?  Nothing less than our familiar Cursillo tripod!  He addresses Laypersons in the Church by telling them to work on:

  • Piety (pray in the Holy Spirit),
  • Study (Keep yourselves in the love of God…likely by studying what the love of God is) and
  • Action (On those who waver, have mercy; save others by snatching them out of the fire; on others have mercy with fear). 

He also admonishes them (and us by extension) to overcome the obstacles to a life in grace by abhorring even the outer garment stained by the flesh.

Tradition has it that because his name was similar to the traitor Judas Iscariot, few, if any faithful Christians prayed for his intervention, out of the mistaken belief that they would be praying to Judas Iscariot. As a result, St. Jude was little used, and so became eager to assist any who asked him, to the point of intervening in the direst of circumstances. The Church also wanted to encourage veneration of this "forgotten" disciple. Therefore, the Church maintained that St. Jude would intervene in any lost cause to prove his saintliness and zeal for Christ, and thus St. Jude became the patron of lost causes.


One of the nation’s foremost children’s hospitals is named for St. Jude – not its founder the actor Danny Thomas. Unsure of his life’s direction, the young actor, singer and entertainer sought guidance from St. Jude Thaddeus. If the saint would just point to the path he should take, Danny Thomas vowed to build a shrine in his name. Success followed Danny’s plea and soon after, the legendary entertainer set about fulfilling his vow to St. Jude. The result was St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.[ii]

At the time of its founding in 1955, the survival rate for childhood cancers was 20%, and for those with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) — the most common form of childhood cancer — only 4% of children would live. The founders believed that St. Jude could help these families with nowhere else to turn. St. Jude would become a unique research institution where the world’s best doctors and scientists would work together to cure childhood cancer, sickle cell and other deadly diseases.

And for families with children battling these diseases, the founders of St. Jude’s Children’s research hospital wanted to remove the burden of treatment costs so they were free to focus on their child.

The mission of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is to find cures for children
with cancer and other catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. It is supported primarily by donations raised by ALSAC (American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities).  According to Charity Navigator, ALSAC was founded in 1957 and exists for the sole purpose of raising funds to support the operating and maintenance of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Research efforts are directed at understanding the molecular, genetic and chemical bases of catastrophic diseases in children; identifying cures for such diseases; and promoting their prevention. Research is focused specifically on cancers, some acquired and inherited immunodeficiencies, sickle cell disease, infectious diseases and genetic disorders.[iii]

Now you know how you can mark this single day in the three-year liturgical year when we have readings from the Letter of Jude – by considering a gift to one of the foremost hospitals which helps families who think they are without hope.  You and St. Jude’s can build them up to face the road ahead.

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