By Kurt Jensen
(OSV News) — St. Jude may be best known in the United States for being the patron saint of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, a cancer treatment center founded by Lebanese-American entertainer Danny Thomas.
Thomas credited St. Jude — also well known among Catholics as the patron saint of hopeless causes and desperate situations — with reviving his career during a particularly low moment. He founded the hospital in gratitude.
Now more Catholics are going to learn about this faithful apostle, martyr and saint as his relic — bone fragments from an arm believed to be his — leaves Italy for the first time, sponsored by Treasures of the Church, for a tour that extends into 2024.
The tour begins in Chicago Sept. 9 at St. John Cantius Church. Scheduled stops for the remainder of 2023 include parishes in Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa, followed by Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska, Indiana and Michigan. The relic’s tour then veers east to parishes in Ohio and central Pennsylvania — some 45 parishes.
There are to be 100 stops in all. The 2024 stops into May have not yet been announced.
At each parish, there will be public veneration and special Masses.
“We really don’t have a particular relationship with St Jude,” Father John Chrzan, pastor of St. Gilbert Parish in Grayslake, Illinois, where the relic will be on display Sept. 12, told OSV News.
“But it’s an incredible honor for our parish to host the relics of an apostle,” he said. “Our folks are excited and looking forward to welcoming many people from our area to venerate the relics and to pray.”
As the church-appointed custodian of the relic, Father Carlos Martins, a priest of the Companions of the Cross religious community, is directing the tour.
“The visit provides an opportunity for individuals to experience intimacy with someone who dwells in Heaven and beholds God face-to-face. It allows devotees to receive his blessing and entrust him with their petitions,” Father Martins said, according to a press release.
St. Jude Thaddeus was a first cousin of Jesus Christ — the son of Mary of Clopas (Cleophas), a relation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Along with St. Bartholomew, he is one of the patron saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The last Jewish bishop of Jerusalem, Judah Kyriakos, was the great-grandson of St. Jude.
Following his martyrdom around AD 65, when St. Jude was killed with an ax, his body was buried in Beirut, where he was slain. According to tradition, the apostle’s remains were transferred to Rome during the reign of the Roman emperor Constantine, and his tomb rests directly below the main altar of the left transept of St. Peter’s Basilica.
The arm was separated from St. Jude’s remains several centuries ago and placed in a wooden reliquary carved in the shape of an upright arm in the gesture of imparting a blessing. It bears the seals of Cardinal Francesco Marchetti Selvaggiani, who was vicar general of Rome from 1931 to 1951.
According to Treasures of the Church’s press release, pilgrims will be able to receive an extraordinary plenary indulgence issued by Pope Francis and published by the Vatican’s apostolic penitentiary. An indulgence, is either a partial or full (plenary) full remission of the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven; a plenary indulgence is obtained by a person in the state of grace with the condition he or she must show detachment from sin, go to confession, receive the Eucharist and pray for the intentions of the pope.