I recently started a podcast called “You Are More,” that focuses on living life outside the box yet inside the bounds of God’s perfect plan. As a therapist, I want people to know they are not defined by any box or label in their life. This idea originated after I wrote a book about each person being more than their relationship status. God defines us; labels just help describe us. One of my podcast guests posited that the saints are more than saints. Though we know saints by the parishes, organizations, and cities that honor them, or by reading their names in Scripture, they are humans at their core. The Chosen is a TV series that exhibits the humanity of Jesus and His disciples beautifully.
After watching the first three seasons of The Chosen, characters pop off the page when I read or hear passages from the Bible. This week, we celebrate two apostles who share a feast day: St. Simon (the Zealot or the Canaanite) and St. Jude (also known as Thaddeus). Both men are lesser known than Peter, James, or John. And yet, they are close followers of our Lord. I can picture their personalities and their journeys. In the show, they are known as “Z” and Thaddeus.
Franciscan Media explains that for Zealots, “the messianic promise of the Old Testament meant that the Jews were to be a free and independent nation. God alone was their king, and any payment of taxes to the Romans – the very domination of the Romans – was a blasphemy against God.” Loyola Press adds that, “some Zealots were very concerned that the spiritual ideals of their religion be kept. But others acted more like modern-day terrorists by raiding, killing, and inciting riots.”
Linked below is a depiction of Simon Z being called to follow Jesus that shows he felt defined by his zealot training and weapons. Jesus told him that He does not need Simon, but he wants him… not for his weapons, but for him.
In this dinner conversation at the Wedding at Cana, Thaddeus shares with the disciples how he met Jesus working by his side at a construction site. Linked below:
The disciples were friends with Jesus and with one another. They lived in community and had their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses. The reason the Church shares the stories of the saints is not to show us unattainable ideals, but to remind us of what is possible for each of us. We can find our story in their stories and be encouraged that they were able to hold onto hope, faith, and love throughout life’s ups and downs.
You may be a passionate person who is willing to take risks in the name of peace and justice like Simon Z. You may be meeker and inclined to accompany others, so they feel seen and heard like Thaddeus. You may even connect with another disciple better than either of these men, but that is a beautiful reminder that you are unique and have your own gifts. If you are not authentically you, you cannot be a saint. Jesus made you to be who you are, not someone else. Simon and Thaddeus may be lesser known in the story compared to the bigger names, yet, they are wanted by Christ. Jesus wants you to follow Him just as you are.
Some of us have lost hope in our lives, and as a therapist I like to offer to hold the hope for my clients until they are ready to pick it back up again. In the Church, we know Thaddeus as St. Jude, the patron of hopeless causes. His name was originally Judas Thaddeus, which was eerily like the name Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus. Because of this similarity, people were afraid to pray to him until St. Bridget had a vision of Our Lord asking her to confidently pray for his intercession. He became known as Jude to differentiate him from the infamous Judas. Now, countless miracles are attributed to his intercession.
Simon and Jude both show different sides of Our Lord. Our Lord can be determined, feisty, and aggressive while also being slow, quiet, and gentle. Both exhibit hope. Article 1817 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes hope as “the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.”
How are you desiring the kingdom of heaven? How can you place a greater trust in Christ’s promises this week? How can you rely less on your own strength and more on the grace of the Holy Spirit?
Sts. Simon and Jude, pray for us!
**This photo is from The Chosen television series.**
This October, as summer turns to fall and the days start getting shorter, we sometimes find ourselves with opportunities to reflect on some of life’s bigger questions. I often find myself this season asking deep questions on a nice walk outside while admiring the beauty of nature. A lot of times, these big life questions usually involve prayer, discernment, and looking to role models. When I sat down to look at the saints whom we celebrate this October, I realized that many of them had to face similarly tough life questions. The popes, young people in the Church, and martyrs we celebrate this October can help us grow in our own faith journey.
Next week, we will celebrate two saints who were popes, albeit at vastly different times. On October 14th, we will celebrate the feast of St. Callistus I (also know as Callixtus I). For many, he is probably one of the lesser-known pope saints. He was the 16th pope and had to deal with great division in the Church. He was able to navigate the Church through many doctrinal controversies through these turbulent times and was martyred around the year 222. Similarly, St. John XXIII navigated through many challenging questions in the Church when he opened the Second Vatican Council in 1962. It was through much prayer and discernment that both popes were able to guide the Church out of murky waters. Later this month, we will celebrate Pope St. John Paul II. One of my favorite John Paul II quotes epitomizes the courage he calls all of us to in living out our faith: “Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
Saints who had an impact in their youth
Already this month, we have celebrated two saints who had a major impact on the Church while in their youth: St. Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Francis of Assisi. St. Thérèse, who died at 24, was known for her life of fervent prayer. She was a cloistered Carmelite nun whose prayer was not focused on herself, but on the whole world. She is known as one of the patron saints of missionaries even though she lived as a cloistered nun. St. Francis of Assisi also had a huge impact on the Church while still young. St. Francis was in his 20s when he heard God’s call in the chapel at San Damiano, but it took him time and further prayer to realize God’s true calling for him. St. Francis’ perseverance in the faith and continual discernment of God’s call, even in times of confusion, inspire me. Bl. Carlo Acutis, beatified just last year, also positively impacted the Church in his youth. Bl. Carlo was an amateur computer programmer who died in 2006 at the age of 15. He used his passion for computers to create a website documenting Eucharistic miracles across the world.
Martyrs from all ages
Throughout the rest of the month, we will celebrate the feast days of martyrs from all time periods in the Church. This includes the memorial of two Apostles: Sts. Simon and Jude. While not much is known about the lives of Sts. Simon and Jude, it is known that they both were killed for their faith. Also martyred in the time of the early Church was St. Ignatius of Antioch. He is known for his incredible writings on Christology. St. Denis was also a martyr in the time of the early Church. Many portrayals of St. Denis will show him holding his head in his arms because after his was martyred, legend has it that he held his head and shared Christ with those who killed him. On October 19th we will celebrate Sts. John de Brebuf and Isaac Jogues, the patron saints of North America. They were killed in the 17th century while ministering to the Iroquois. Even though they had previously been captured and knew that they could be killed, they placed all of their trust in God and continued their missionary work.
Throughout the rest of this October, let us pray for the intercession of these saints in helping us be courageous in prayer and discerning God’s continuing will for us.
To learn more about the saints, visit our Catholic Feast Days Website by clicking here.
To view a calendar of the feast days in October, and each month, click here.
I have always had a special admiration for St. Jude. Growing up, my home parish was the Church of St. Jude. I can still remember my mom telling me to pray to the saint whenever I felt that I was facing an impossible task. Legend says that since his name was so close to that of Judas, many people did not pray to him, for fear of confusing the two. To show his thanks to people who did remember him, St. Jude was willing to be extra fervent in bringing the faithful’s requests to the Lord.
In John’s Gospel, towards the end of the Last Supper, Christ observes that soon he will no longer be with his disciples, but that he will soon reveal himself. Jude asks Jesus, “Master, [then] what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” (John 14:22) Our Lord responded, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (John 14:23). He is telling his disciple, and us, that whoever holds God’s teachings in his or her heart and acts accordingly is filled with the Spirit of the Lord.
The Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude remind us all to be God’s dwelling place. While we do not know much about the lives of either saint, tradition tells us that Simon was called the Zealot in the gospels and Acts (Lk 6:15; Acts 1:13). There is some debate to whether this means he was an ardent disciple of Jesus or that he was a former member of the Zealot sect that advocated for the violent overthrow of the Roman occupation.
If the latter is to be believed, then Simon truly demonstrates that no one is beyond becoming a dwelling place of the Lord. The Zealots were known to use violence to advocate noncompliance with the Roman authorities. Nevertheless, tradition and legend hold that Simon helped to spread the Good News, peacefully, through much of the Middle East. It was that conversion of heart that truly made Simon a dwelling place of the Lord.
Legend tells us that both saints suffered martyrdom while spreading the faith in Syria. Tradition holds that Simon was either crucified or sawed in half while Jude was clubbed to death or beheaded by an axe. Yet, in the face of adversity and hostility, they continued to profess the faith that had been revealed to them until the very end.
So, the question remains: How do we become God’s dwelling place? The answer is simple – follow what Jesus told St. Jude at the Last Supper: love the Lord and keep His Word. When we accept and follow the Word of God, He truly and fully enters into our lives. By keeping His word on our minds and in our hearts, we make ourselves His dwelling place.
Sts. Simon and Jude truly became dwelling places of God. What happens when God resides with someone? He or she becomes so full of God’s love that it must be spread. That is what happened to Sts. Simon and Jude and that is what is possible for all of us. By following their example, we, too, can be an outpouring of God’s love to others and help build up His kingdom.
Victor David is a collaborator with the Catholic Apostolate Center and a staff member at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.
The St. Jude Shrine is located in the heart of Baltimore, Maryland, and has been operated and staffed by the Pallottine Fathers and Brothers for over 80 years. The Archbishop of Baltimore entrusted the Shrine to the Pallottines in 1917. Regular Novena Services were established around the outset of World War II, when devotion to St. Jude reached remarkable proportions. Today, St. Jude Shrine is the Nationwide Center of St. Jude Devotions. Like the St. Jude Shrine on Facebook.
The St. Jude Shrine is a ministry of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate - Immaculate Conception Province. Learn more by visiting http://www.sacapostles.org/our-ministries.html.