Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Jude, Apostle

Article

The apostle Saint Jude is distinguished from the Iscariot by the surname of Thaddæus, which signifies in Syriac, praising or confession, (being of the same import with the Hebrew word Judas,) also by that of Lebbæus, which is given him in the Greek text of Saint Matthew; that word signifying, according to Saint Jerom, a man of wit and understanding, from the Hebrew word Leb, a heart; though it might equally be derived from the Hebrew word, which signifies a Lion. Saint Jude was brother to Saint James the Less, as he styles himself in his epistle; likewise of Saint Simeon of Jerusalem, and of one Joses, who are styled the brethren of our Lord, and were sons of Cleophas, and Mary, sister to the Blessed Virgin. This apostle’s kindred and relation to our Saviour exalted him not so much in his master’s eyes as his contempt of the world, the ardour of his holy zeal and love, and his sufferings for his sake. It is not known when and by what means he became a disciple of Christ; nothing having been said of him in the gospels before we find him enumerated in the catalogue of the apostles. After the last supper, when Christ promised to manifest himself to every one who should love him, Saint Jude asked him, why he did not manifest himself to the world? By which question, he seems to have expressed his expectation of a secular kingdom of the Messias. Christ by his answer satisfied him, that the world is unqualified for divine manifestations, being a stranger and an enemy to what must fit souls for a fellowship with heaven; but that he would honour those who truly love him with his familiar converse, and would admit them to intimate communications of grace and favour. 2

After our Lord’s ascension and the descent of the Holy Ghost, Saint Jude set out with the other great conquerors of the world and hell, to pull down the prince of darkness from his usurped throne; which this little troop undertook to effect armed only with the word of God, and his spirit. Eusebius relates, 3 that the apostle Saint Thomas sent Saint Thaddæus, one of the disciples of our Lord, to Edessa, and that king Abgar and a great number of his people received baptism at his hands. Saint Jerom and Bede take this Thaddæus to have been the apostle Saint Jude: but it is the general opinion that it was another person, one of the seventy-two disciples whom the Greeks commemorate in the Menæa on the 21st of August. 4 Nicephorus, Isidore, and the Martyrologies tell us, that Saint Jude preached up and down Judæa, Samaria, Idumæa, and Syria; especially in Mesopotamia. Saint Paulinus says, 5 that Saint Jude planted the faith in Lybia. This apostle returned from his missions to Jerusalem in the year 62, after the martyrdom of his brother, Saint James, and assisted at the election of Saint Simeon who was likewise his brother. 6 He wrote a catholic or general epistle to all the churches of the East, particularly addressing himself to the Jewish converts, amongst whom he had principally laboured. Saint Peter had written to the same two epistles before this, and in the second, had chiefly in view to caution the faithful against the errors of the Simonians, Nicholaits, and Gnostics. The havoc which these heresies continued to make among souls stirred up the zeal of Saint Jude, who sometimes copied certain expressions of Saint Peter, 7 and seems to refer to the epistles of Saints Peter and Paul as if the authors were then no more. 8 The heretics he describes by many strong epithets and similes, and calls them wandering meteors which seem to blaze for a while, but set in eternal darkness. The source of their fall he points out by saying, they are murmurers, and walk after their own lusts; for being enslaved to pride, envy, the love of sensual pleasure, and other passions, and neglecting to crucify the desires of the flesh in their hearts, they were strangers to sincere humility, meekness, and interior peace. The apostle exhorts the faithful to treat those who were fallen with tender compassion, making a difference between downright malice and weakness, and endeavouring by holy fear to save them, by plucking them as brands out of the fire of vice and heresy, and hating the very garment that is spotted with iniquity. He puts us in mind to have always before our eyes the great obligation we lie under of incessantly building up our spiritual edifice of charity, by praying in the Holy Ghost, growing in the love of God, and imploring his mercy through Christ. 9 From Mesopotamia Saint Jude travelled into Persia, as Fortunatus 10 and several Martyrologies tell us. Those who say, that he died in peace at Berytus, in Phenicia, confound him with Thaddæus, one of the seventy-two disciples, and the apostle of Edessa, of whom the Menæa gives that account. 11 Fortunatus and the western Martyrologists tell us, that the apostle Saint Jude suffered martyrdom in Persia; the Menology of the emperor Basil, and some other Greeks say at Arat or Ararat, in Armenia, which at that time was subject to the Parthian empire, and consequently esteemed part of Persia. Many Greeks say he was shot to death with arrows: some add whilst he was tied on a cross. The Armenians at this day challenge him and Saint Bartholomew for the first planters of the faith among them. 12

We owe to God a homage of eternal praise and thanks for the infinite mercy by which he has established a Church on earth, and a Church so richly furnished with every powerful means of sanctity and grace; a Church in which his name is always glorified, and many souls, both by the purity of their love and virtue, and by their holy functions, are associated to the company of the blessed angels. It ought also to be our first and constant petition in our most earnest addresses to God, as we learn from our Lord’s prayer, and as the first dictates of divine charity and religion teach us, that for the glory of his holy name he vouchsafe to protect and preserve his Church, according to his divine word; to extend its pale, to sanctify its members, and to fill its pastors with the same spirit with which he so wonderfully enriched his apostles, whom he was pleased to choose for the foundation of this sacred edifice. If we desire to inherit a share of those abundant and precious graces which God pours forth upon those souls which he disposes to receive them, we must remember that he never imparts them but to those who sincerely study to die to themselves, and to extirpate all inordinate attachments and affections out of their hearts; so long as any of these reign in a soul, she is one of that world to which God cannot manifest himself, or communicate the sweet relish of his love. This is the mystery which Christ unfolded to Saint Jude. The world hath not known him. Few even among those who know God by faith, attain to the experimental knowledge of God, and the relish of his love, because few, very few, disentangle their affection from creatures. So long as their hearts remain secretly wedded to the world, they fall in some degree under its curse. And how few study perfectly to extinguish its spirit in their hearts!

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Jude, Apostle”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 27 August 2014. Web. 25 September 2018. <>