Through history, legend and tradition, however, we can construct some details concerning this powerful intercessor and close friend of the Divine Master. St. Jude comes from the line of David and is a cousin of Jesus Christ. The Jewish people, proud of their lineage, kept exact records of their ancestors, and we see that St. Jude’s father, Cleophas, was the brother of St. Joseph. St. Jude’s mother, Mary of Cleophas, was a cousin of the Blessed Virgin Mary: their mothers were sisters.
In the Gospel, Mary of Cleophas is identified as the “sister” who has the courage to stand beneath the Cross of Christ along with the Virgin Mary and St. John. In the Hebrew language, the word “sister” was often used to include the cousins.
The Fathers of the Church; such men as St. Ambrose, St. Bernard, St. Jerome and others, gave us more insight into this great man’s character by their commentaries on the Epistle of St. Jude. St. Jerome in his work, applies the name “zealot” to St. Jude. St. Bernard of Clairvaux tells us that St. Jude was courageous because of his virginal purity and the courage he used to protect it.
St. Jude most probably came from farming people, for the tribe of Juda from which he came was of that occupation. After he became an Apostle, he always manifested an intense interest in the salvation of the Gentiles. So, at the Last Supper, when Christ said, “yet a little while and the world no longer sees me. But you shall see me, for I live and you shall live” (John 14, 19); it was St. Jude who then exclaimed, “Lord, how is it that You are to manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” St. Jude was asking in effect, how Christ’s message was to be made known to the Gentiles.
After the Ascension of Christ, St. Jude headed for his beloved people – the Gentiles. Many stories have come down to us: his miraculous cure of King Abagaro, ruler of Edessa, a city in Mesopotamia. The King asked Jesus to cure him of leprosy and sent an artist to bring him a drawing of Jesus. Impressed with Abagaro’s great faith, Jesus pressed His face on a cloth, leaving the image of His face on it. He gave the cloth to St. Jude, who took the image to Abagaro and cured him. That is why St. Jude is traditionally depicted carrying the image of Jesus in his hand.
While in Persia with St. Simon, he effected an unexpected peace for King Varardach and won over the king and his entire court to the Catholic faith. For many more years, St. Jude made missionary journeys, preaching and dispensing the Sacraments throughout Mesopotamia, Armenia, and even southern Russia.
St. Jude was martyred in 65AD with St. Simon in Persia on October 28 (their feast days). There are differing accounts regarding how St. Jude died. Some say he was beaten to death and beheaded, or hacked to death, which is why he is often depicted with a club or axe. St. Jude’s remains are located in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
After his death, many turned to St. Jude for his intercession in prayer. Jesus inspired the devotion to St. Jude for St. Bridget of Sweden when He directed her in a vision to turn to St. Jude with great faith and confidence. In a vision, Christ told St. Bridget, “In accordance with his surname, Thaddeus, the amiable or loving, he will show himself most willing to give help.”
St. Jude was a tireless worker — he tried — he dared to try the impossible; and he was successful. Steadfastly pure in body and soul, St. Jude gave of himself not only in life but in death as well.