Whatever Happened ... to the Apostles ?


By Fr Paul Stenhouse, MSC, PhD

THIS Jude is the well-known saint whom Catholics traditionally invoke when they are looking for some lost object, or seeking a way out of some difficult or dangerous situation.

Unlike some who find the confusion of names in the New Testament to be an obstacle to their credibility, I find myself reassured by the fact that St Matthew1 calls our Jude the Apostle, Lebbaeus while St Mark2 calls him Thaddaeus. St Luke3 in his Gospel, and in the Acts of the Apostles4 calls him `Jude brother of James' and St John5 calls him 'the other Jude, not the Iscariot.' Just as the audience for which each of the gospels was intended, differed - St Gregory Nazianzus tells us that St Matthew wrote for the Hebrews, St Mark for the Romans, St Luke for the Greeks and St John for the whole world - so each evangelist reported events based on his own or others' memories. Why should we be surprised that some evangelists use the saint's given name, and others his nick names, Thaddaeus or Lebbaeus? St Jerome6[345-420 AD] called Jude `trinomius' or 'triple-named' referring to his being known by three names.

Thaddaeus is customarily derived from an Aramaic word meaning `benignus' or 'kindly'. Lebbaeus is derived from the Hebrew word for `heart,' as St Ado of Vienna whom we quoted above notes, and probably means something like 'ardent,' or `eager'.

Jude is traditionally regarded as being the Jude listed in Matthew 13,55 and Mark 6,3 as the brother of James, Joseph and Sim who were cousins of Jesus.

The Apostle Jude is credited by Origen [185-254 AD] and St Jerome, among numerous other Fathers, with the authorship of 'The Epistle of Jude', to be found among the Seven Catholic Epistles. The fact that the author of this short epistle does not call himself an Apostle, but uses the phrase 'servant of Jesus Christ,' is not an argument against the Apostle Jude's authorship. As Father Josephus van Hecke SJ notes in his comments on this saint, 'only Sts Peter and Paul call themselves Apostles'.

We know very little of the mission of Jude beyond a reference in a poem by St Paulinus of Nola [353-431 AD] to Lebbaeus's 'going to Libya'. St Jerome, followed by the Eastern tradition, says that he went to Mesopotamia where he was founder of the Church at Edessa. A Syrian tradition has him martyred in Phoenicia on his return from Assyria.

The most ancient liturgies all commemorate Sts Simon and Jude Thaddaeus as martyrs. The Sacramentary of Pope St Gregory the Great contains a Preface for the Mass of the vigil of the Feast of Sts Simon and Jude [October 27] which declares:

`You are wonderful in all your saints, whom you made glorious and famous through their sufferings endured for the sake of your Holy Name'.

While it is uncertain whence the bodies of Sts Simon and Jude came to the west, we do know that some relics of the saints were conserved in Palestine. In the life of St Bernard of Clairvaux [1090-1153] written by Godfrey his disciple and notary, we read:

'[Bernard] was buried on the 11th of the kalends of September [August 22. He died on August 20] before the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mother, whose most devoted priest he was. Upon his breast in the tomb lies a small box containing relics of Blessed Thaddaeus the Apostle, which had been sent that same year to him, from Jerusalem. He ordered that it should be placed on his body, inspired by faith and devotion, so that on the day of their resurrection he might be found in the company of the same Apostle.'

The grand Abbey of Clairvaux, founded in 1115 by St Bernard, was confiscated by French revolutionaries in 1790 and since 1808 has been used as a prison. The fate of the tombs of St Bernard, St Malachy [1094-1148 Archbishop of Armagh in Ireland] and St Eutropius and others in the Abbey Church, as well as the fate of the relics of St Jude Thaddaeus, is a mystery story waiting to be written.

Hegesippus, the 2nd century historian refers to two grandsons of St Jude whom he calls 'the cousin of our Lord according to the flesh' referring to Matthew 13,55. Eusebius of Caesarea, [260-340 AD] the 3rd/4th century historian, quotes Hegesippus thus:

`These [grandchildren of St Jude] were reported as being of the family of David and were brought to the emperor Domitian [51-96 AD] by an Evocatus. [one of Domitian's bodyguards]. For this emperor was as much alarmed by the coming of Christ as was Herod. He asked them whether they were of David's race, and they confessed that they were. He then asked them how much property they had and how much money they earned. Both of them answered that they had, between them, only nine thousand denarii, and this was not in silver but in the value of a 39 acre block of land, from which they raised their taxes, and supported themselves by their own labour. They then showed him their hands, and the hardness of their bodies, and the callouses on their hands caused by incessant hard work, as a proof of their statements. When asked about Christ and his Kingdom, what was its nature, and when and where it would appear they replied "that it was not a temporal nor an earthly kingdom but heavenly and angelic; and that it would appear at the end of the world when coming in Glory he would judge the living and the dead and reward everyone according to his deeds". Thereupon, Domitian made no reply, for he despised them. Treating them with contempt, as if they were simpletons, he dismissed them and issued a decree ordering the persecution to cease.'

In an old copy of the Officium Parvum [Little Office] of St Jude, dated 1826, we found the following prayer to the saint, which we translate for Annals readers;

`Most Holy Apostle, most faithful servant and friend of Christ, Jude Thaddaeus, who shares the same name as the betrayer of Jesus and on that account may not be honoured as is your right. Because of your most holy and apostolic life you have been called upon as an advocate by the True Church in times of calamity and desperation. Pray for me to God in my time of trial. Through your merits may I receive consolation in my tribulations and difficulties. May I experience God's help, and yours especially in my present plight and straitened circumstances. Finally, at the hour of my death, along with you and all the saints, may I love and bless the eternal God. Amen.'

In Matthaeum, x,4. Migne, Patrologia Latina, tome xxvi, co1.61.
De Viris Illustr. cap.4, Migne op.cit. tome xxiii, co1.613.
In the Bollandists' Acta Sanctorum, volume 60, tome xii, die 28 Octobris, p.437.
Poem xix. See Migne, Patrologia Graeca, tome lxi, 10. col. 514.
Book v. cap.2; Migne, Patrologia Latina, tome cclxxxv, co1.360.

From "Annals Australasia" July 2005

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