Saturday, 28 October 2006

St Jude, Patron of Hopeless Cases

Today was the Feast of the Apostles Simon and Jude. I have a particular devotion to St Jude, but always felt that St Simon gets rather left out: St Jude being the patron saint of hopeless cases rather steals the limelight!

I heard a story about why St Jude became the patron of hopeless cases which appealed: how true it is I don't know, and since it relies on the premiss that people in medieval times were a credulous and superstitious bunch, it probably is an invention (see The Stripping of the Altars by Duffy for a more accurate description of religious beliefs and practices in the medieval church.) But I like the story anyway.

The idea is that because Jude (aka Thaddeus) is named "Judas, son of James" in the Gospel of St Luke, people were not terribly keen on invoking him just in case their prayers were "misdirected" and ended up with Judas Iscariot. As a result, they would only pray to St Jude when they had tried everything (and everyone) else. The prayers were then answered, and St Jude became the patron saint of hopeless cases.

I was told about St Jude shortly after my return to the Church. I had a very Protestant view of the saints: they existed, but really all this devotion to them went a bit far. I was happy to pray to Our Lady (though I wouldn't say I had a devotion to her) because after all, Jesus was a dutiful and loving son, and every good Jewish lad loves his mother. But the saints were for less "intellectual" people. I preferred to go straight to the top. No intermediaries for me, thank you very much.

Anyway, I was seriously ill when I came back to the Church: in constant pain, and almost immobilised, needing crutches to get around. I'd had several years' worth of attention from various doctors, surgeons and hospitals and I'd been told that it was probably all in my head... I finally had discovered a surgeon who believed I was suffering from something physically wrong, and duly went on the waiting list for an operation that might just work. Eventually.

After about a year on the list I rang the hospital to find out how things were progressing. The bed manager at the hospital had only bad news: due to funding problems, the theatre time for the whole orthopaedic department had been slashed to 25% of the normal caseload. She reported that I would be lucky to be called in for an operation before another nine months had passed, and more probably not before a year.

As I put the phone down, I thought that the situation was hopeless... which made me remember St Jude. I had a copy of the novena prayer from the Shrine of St Jude in Faversham, and I decided to give it a go.

I was so ill that I didn't actually manage to complete the novena (I was taking morphine tablets and concentrating on anything for any length of time was a little difficult) but on what would have been the ninth day, a letter arrived from the hospital telling me that I was scheduled for surgery at the end of the month, and asking me to ring to confirm.

Unsurprisingly, I rang back immediately. I spoke to the bed manager again, and asked her why there had been the sudden change - she had been so definite the last time we spoke. She told me that she had no idea why I had been bumped to the top of the queue, the surgeon had just told her that I would be next.

I was just managing to go to Mass each day at this point, so I went to say "thank you." I was utterly convinced that I had experienced a miracle, though part of me was still terrified that nothing would actually work. You can imagine how I felt when the Gospel was read out, with words that went straight to my heart: "Pick up your bed and walk."

Needless to say, my views on the value of prayers to the saints have changed considerably... and I have since laid claim to more patrons than you can shake a stick at. I shall take great pleasure in having the Litany of my favourite saints sung when I renew my vows (Sorry Fr Tim, I forgot to mention that I want the Litany sung!! I hope you're in good voice!)

3 comments:

Allan said...

What a wonderful story from Mac Mc Lemon.

I had a surprise visit from a friend and boss whom I had not seen for fifteen years. Her name is Mavis and she had been to 'The Shrine of St.Jude' in Faversham and had kindly lit a candle for me.

That prompted me to delve further into the history of St. Jude and the Shrine. Needless to say, that I now hope to visit the Shrine with my friend.

Believably, there was some divine intervention with the waiting list that Mac was on, and there is certainly no scepticism from me when I say I fully believe in the miracles that have been attributed to many of our Patron Saints.

To conclude, it would have been nice if Mac had informed us in her story, how the operation went and how she is feeling now.

Allan Wilkins.

Mac McLernon said...

Thanks for your comment, Allan.

I didn't bother to describe the "rest of the story" because I forgot that many of my readers have never actually met me!

My fears about the anaesthetic (I react extremely badly) proved groundless, as the anaesthetist, on hearing how high my blood pressure got with the preceding anaesthetic promptly agreed to operate under a spinal block (miracle number 2!)

The surgery went extremely well, and the surgeon was able to demonstrate that I hadn't been imagining it, as my tibia had started to crumble away due to mistakes made in previous surgery. I am now off the crutches (miracle number 3!)

My knee still plays up and gives me a fair amount of pain if I stand around too much, or if the weather is bad, or I overdo things. But it's not bad enough for me to take morphine tablets (miracle number 4!) and although I can't kneel or crouch, or climb ladders, you wouldn't necessarily know there was anything wrong with me.

Actually, I have more problems from my ankle (on the other leg) these days... never quite recovered from falling down the sacristy steps!

Anyway, I hope that answers your questions.

Allan said...

Thank you Mac for a very prompt reply.

I am not a blogger (first time) so I was pleasantly surprised to see my blog published, and equally so find your reply.

I am happy for you that you are now much improved, and I can empathise with you about not looking sick. I have similar problems,but look fine to others.

You will see from my time that I was a while replying. This was because I was reading up on Saint Jude, and also his relationship with Jesus.

For those that are interested to learn more, here are a couple of sites I found.

http://www.shrineofsaintjude.com
http://www.wikinfo.org/index.php/Saint_Jude

You are in my prayers Mac.

Allan Wilkins

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