St Jude (October 28) is the patron saint of lost causes

Tradition has it that Jude the Apostle, patron saint of lost causes, preached in Judea and Samaria and later Syria, Iraq and Libya, before being martyred in Beirut. According to legend King Abgar of the small Aramaic kingdom of Edessa wrote to Christ during His lifetime offering Him sanctuary, to which Jesus replied with an image of himself, and after His death St Thomas sent Jude to the king, who was cured of his ailment (historically Edessa did have a Christian presence in the first century).

As a result, Jude is traditionally shown holding an image of Jesus by his heart. Alternatively, he is shown with a flame over his head, signifying his presence at Pentecost as one of the 70 who received the Holy Spirit. For obvious reasons his life story is somewhat patchy – as is his very identity. Jude the Apostle is sometime identified as Thaddeus, and is twice called Jude of James in the New Testament, and he may be the same as the “Jude, brother of Jesus”, the traditional author of the Epistle of Jude.

One biography, although stemming from the 14th century and so of questionable veracity, states that Jude was born into a Jewish family in Galilee and was the bridegroom at the wedding of Cana, and that his wife was a cousin of the Virgin Mary. (This is possible: it’s likely that among Jesus’s closest followers would have been relatives).

Jude, along with Bartholomew, is traditionally seen as bringing Christianity to Armenia, the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion. St Thaddeus Monastery in what is now northern Iran still stands today, on the grounds of a church that dates back to AD68, and Dominicans visitors to Armenia in the 13th century found a substantial devotion to the saint.

He was martyred in AD65 along with Simon the Zealot. Sometime later his body was brought to Rome and placed in St Peter’s Basilica, and he remains there with Simon. Along with many of the early relics, traditions abound about where they have remained down the years, including a lake in Kyrgyzstan.

Before that, though, it is said that pilgrims went to his grave and that he acquired the title “the Saint for the Hopeless and the Despaired”. He is also, due to the influence of the Dominicans and Claretians in the American Midwest, the patron saint of the Chicago Police Department.