All of the Apostles have a feast day, and, on this day at the end of October – the same day that Emperor Constantine won his victory over Maxentius at the battle of Milvian Bridge, and the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate on non-Christian religions was signed in 1965 – we celebrate Saints Simon and Jude, the latter, in particular, being invoked as the patron of desperate causes.
Simon was called the ‘Zealot’, which may refer to the fact that he belonged to the party dedicated to overthrowing Roman occupation of the Holy Land; or, perhaps, that he was ‘zealous’ in keeping the law of Moses. Either way, Christ channeled his zeal, directing it towards the salvation of souls and the building of His nascent Church. There is no gift, no energy, that God cannot use for his purpose, even if we are at first unwitting of the direction in which He takes our life. As the saying goes, God writes straight with crooked lines…
From the early centuries, Simon has always been connected with Saint Jude, or Thaddeus, author of a brief epistle in the New Testament, clearly distinguished from the ‘other’ Jude, or Judas, ‘who betrayed Jesus’. Today’s Apostle Jude is also described as the ‘brother’ of Christ, with that term meaning any near relation; contrary to some Protestant revisionism, Jude was not the blood brother of Christ, for the obvious reason that it is a dogma of our Faith that Christ was miraculously conceived in the womb of the Virgin, who had no other children.
His epistle is but one chapter long, but vivid and filled with zeal: Here is the Apostle’s description of men of his time who had not the faith and followed their own base desires:
These are blemishes on your love feasts, as they boldly carouse together, looking after themselves; waterless clouds, carried along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted… wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars for whom the nether gloom of darkness has been reserved for ever. These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own passions, loud-mouthed boasters, flattering people to gain advantage. But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; they said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who set up divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.
Hmm. We should recall that these words apply to all of us in some way, and even if we are not mired in them, say that ‘there but for the grace of God go I’.
Both Apostles, driven by their new-found zeal, according to tradition, preached the faith in the regions of Samaria, Mesopotamia, Libya, meeting their end together in a glorious martyrdom likely in Persia. Their relics were brought back to Rome, where they rest under the basilica of Saint Peter’s, along with that of the first Pope.
Simon and Jude are often invoked as patron saints of desperate causes for which there seem no apparent solutions, of which we all have many in this increasingly fractious world, the form of which seems to be passing away before our very eyes. So seek their intercession, and channel all of our own desires to those of Christ, in Whom is all our hope.
Saints Simon and Jude, orate pro nobis!