February 27, 2024 at 12:05 a.m.
Guest Columnist

Entering Lent With St. Jude’s Arm



TAMMY WILSON | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment
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It’s not every day you get a chance to view bones of an Apostle.

Such was the case Feb. 15, when a fellow church member and I shunted off to Charlotte for a rare chance to see the bones of St. Jude Thaddeus—one of Jesus’ Apostles. It was the second day of Lent, and what better way to launch the season of penitence and sacrifice than to focus on the remains of an Apostle.

Housed within a glass case, the relic was displayed in the sanctuary of St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church for a one-day-only chance for the public to view a bone from the right arm of Jude. The Charlotte stop was one of dozens of locations the arm will be seen on its North American tour this year, the first ever outside Italy.

At St. Ann’s Church, the line stretched to the chancel, where the arm relive was housed in a simple glass case. Portions of the ulna and radius bones of the right forearm appear within a wooden reliquary in the shape of a priestly arm imparting a blessing.

Catholics call upon St Jude in particularly difficult situations, because the Epistle of Jude stresses that the faithful should persevere even when facing hardy or seemingly impossible circumstances. Jude is particularly associated with healings.

Indeed St. Jude is the one people turn to when they are desperate and have tried everything else. The saint is known to many Americans as the one for whom the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital was named. As a struggling entertainer, Danny Thomas, a devout Catholic, prayed to St. Jude for help with his career. In response to his answered prayer, Thomas raised funds to build the Memphis hospital, now a 73-bed facility, treats about 8,000 young patients a year.

In past travels I’ve encountered remarkable Christian relics. Several years ago, I encountered an entire room at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London that contained centuries-old reliquaries of wood, gold and silver that once held precious artifacts.

Many such relics were brought from the Holy Land to Europe during the Crusades of the High Middle Ages. A few years ago, at the Cathedral of Dubrovnik, Croatia, I encountered the leg bone of St. Blaise. The church treasury contains a garish collection of holy relics, among them reputed to be a portion of the Cross.

In Bruges, Belgium last summer, I saw the purported blood of Jesus Christ. Incredibly, few bothered to make the pilgrimage to the third-floor chapel to view the piece of white cloth stained red, and housed inside a glass cylinder.

But the bones I saw in Charlotte were the first I’ve encountered of an Apostle. 

At St. Ann’s, each visitor was allowed a few seconds to see the relic up close, offer prayers as one wished. Members of the Knights of Columbus served as honor guards while a docent guided visitors approaching the relic. Her words were particularly poignant. “This is the arm that hugged Jesus,” she said.

That put things into perspective.

Many of the faithful brought photos of loved ones and prayers to offer to St. Jude, asking for his intercession. St. Jude is credited with healings and help in times of extreme distress, notably healings. Thus, his name was assigned to the famed research hospital in Memphis.

Jude is regarded as a cousin of Jesus. History tells us that Jude and fellow apostle Simon the Zealot preached in present-day Iraq and in what is now Iran, Kuwait, Syria and Turkey. The two are believed to have been martyred around 65 A.D. The place was most likely Armenia, once a part of the Soviet Union. 

Jude’s story, like most of the Apostles and the saints, involves unspeakable violence. As of Jesus’ inner circle of followers, he paid the ultimate price for his faith. He is said to have preached with fellow Apostle Simon the Zealot, in Persia. According to tradition, Jude was bludgeoned to death. Simon was sawed in half.

Jude’s body was eventually interred in Rome. His forearm was encased in a reliquary and rediscovered in 1830 as part of a church renovation.

---Editor’s Note: Tammy Wilson is a writer who lives near Newton.



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