by Marguerite Cook
A loyal group of parishioners in my church of St. Joseph’s Bedford pray the rosary before daily Mass. At the end of the rosary prayers, a single voice calls out, “St. Jude, pray for us”. The voice belongs to a lady called Bernadette, and she is not alone in her love of St. Jude, the apostle and martyr; Patron of Hopeless Cases. St. Jude has devout followers in every corner of the world and thousands of people visit St. Jude’s Shrine in Faversham, Kent. Many national newspapers and magazines carry in their personal columns a thank-you to St. Jude, as prayers to St. Jude often brings help to seemingly hopeless cases. People turn to St Jude praying for assistance in sickness and help in low points in their life.
On my last visit to my home city of Canterbury, I decided to pay a visit to the National Shrine of St. Jude to light a candle for Bernadette. Faversham, in beautiful Kent, is an historic market town ten miles from Canterbury, and forty-eight miles from London.
I sat in Canterbury bus station waiting for the Faversham bus wondering how hard it would be to find St. Jude’s Shrine, when an elderly lady sat by me and in conversation asked me why I was going to Faversham. I told her I was visiting St. Jude’s Shrine in Tanners Street. On the bus this kind lady asked a couple of people to help make sure her “friend” got off the bus at St. Jude’s Shrine. I started to feel St. Jude wanted me to pay a visit.
St. Jude’s Shrine is delightful. It lies in an annex room below the church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The church and shrine are under the expert care of the Carmelite Order. The fine church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel looks unusual outside, as it was once a Quaker school and then became a cinema. The interior design of the church is very beautiful, and I especially admired the backdrop behind the high altar of the Crucifixion of Our Lord.
The shrine of St. Jude was founded by Fr. Elias Lynch. O. Carm. in 1955. It was established because of popular demand and a deep love of St. Jude, as he is a favourite saint of many people.
This holy place can be entered through the church, or by the rear door; this door leads out into a spacious, attractive garden bordered by a stream. The garden has a large area of grass which in the Spring was edged with bluebells and tulips. In the grass there are lovely colourful pictures of the Rosary; this is called the Rosary Way.
I entered the Shrine of St. Jude from the garden. Inside, the room is ablaze with colour, with vase upon vase of donated fresh flowers, vibrant stained glass images, and at the heart of the shrine is a striking 15th Century statue of St. Jude Thaddeus; Patron of hopeless cases. This impressive statue stands on red cloth in front of a sparkling mosaic – representing the Fire of Pentecost. Row upon row of candles offer up prayers to this well-loved saint, whose relic can be seen in a glorious monstrance.
St. Jude Thaddeus was one of the beloved twelve apostles, and also a relation of Jesus. The New Testament includes one of his letters, which stresses that the faithful should persevere in harsh and difficult circumstances. It was St. Jude that asked Jesus at the Last Supper why He chose to reveal Himself only to the disciples. St. Jude received the reply from Jesus, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home in him.” (John 14:22)
After receiving the power of the Holy Spirit with Our Lady and his fellow apostles at Pentecost, St Jude went forth to preach. We are told he preached around Judea, Samaria, Idumea and Syria. St. Jude died a martyr, and his feast day is October 28th; which is shared with St. Simon. St. Jude’s relics lie in the Vatican in Rome.
In Faversham, I grew to love the busy small Shrine of St. Jude; who is a saint who brings hope to many. I will return, as I have discovered a new favourite saint, a friend I will pray to; and I know he will pray for me. A visit here brings peace and contentment to all the pilgrims, many of whom are seeking help with distressing problems.
I sat for some time in the Shrine of St. Jude, watching a church party who were busy writing petitions and lighting candles. When the church party left, a young woman came to visit with her mother and young son. The young woman said to her mother that no priest was available to speak with her, and then her eyes fell on me. The young woman came up to me and asked if I had a special devotion to St. Jude. I muttered a suitable reply. Briefly she told me of her husband’s tragic circumstances, and then she suddenly asked if I visit Lourdes. Surprised, I told her that I was going to Lourdes in a few weeks’ time. The young woman then said that she and her family had always wanted to visit Lourdes, but were unable to do so, and then asked if I would say a prayer for her husband at Lourdes. I asked her to write his name down, and then tucked the paper in my purse. The young lady seemed relieved and happy as she went away.
Lourdes is a beautiful jewel in the crown of the Catholic Church. It is a place where Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette on eighteen separate occasions. The final apparition was on July 16th, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
During my following visit to Lourdes I had many names written on a card asking for prayers, but I knew I had a very important one; my Faversham family. I put their name and the names of all the other petitioners in a box in the Grotto, and then went into the Basilica of the Holy Rosary and lit a candle especially for the Faversham family. I felt as though I had completed an important assignment as I watched the candle burn and I thought of the many candles burning in St. Jude’s Shrine.
On my return from Lourdes I noticed in the personal column of my newspaper, “Thanks to the Blessed Virgin and St. Jude for favours received”. I hope my Faversham family are also able to give thanks.
“St. Jude, Holy Apostle and Martyr, pray for us”