My Visit--April 2000
There were no parking spaces within two blocks of the Church on the Wednesday that I arrived a few minutes before the
12 o'clock novena prayer to St. Jude would begin.
After circulating the block a few times I finally found
a space about three blocks away. I walked hurriedly past the restlessness that was palpable among the sidewalk dwellers who
seem to pass the day waiting.
The Shrine lay before me but as I walked past the many on the street I could
not help but think of how their gazes matched that of nuns I had once encountered in a monastery of perpetual adoration of
the Blessed Sacrament. It was a gaze focused and intent on receiving. The poor on the streets I realized were looking for
someone to free them from their earthly plight.
I realized that I was not a potential victim walking in their
midst but rather I was a prospective savior. I encountered the poor in a way that I had never before, growing up in a small
town in New England I had never felt comfortable in a big city. But today I realized that the poor and I were one, we were
all searching. The words of Peter in the Acts of the Apostles, "I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I
give you" crossed my mind. I arrived at of the church and opened the door.
If outside the street dwellers all gazed
in expectation for the messiah, inside the packed Church everyone was focused on the Messiah. Young and old filled the pews
all singing loudly the hymn in honor of St. Jude.
I spied to the right the actual "shrine" to St. Jude as I genuflected and entered a pew. There in a sea of candles
was the statue of St. Jude. On the statue of St. Jude's chest was the familiar image of Christ, symbolic of the image
the Apostle Jude had brought to the King Abagar of Edessa. Abagar suffering from leprosy had heard of the Galilean healer
and wished an audience with Jesus.
In response to King's request Jesus had sent Jude with a cloth imprinted
with His image. There are those who think this cloth was in fact the Shroud of Turin folded up so that only the Holy Face
of Jesus was present.
Interestingly the story shows an early appreciation for the role of others in bringing
the presence of Christ and his healing message. Christ healed the king, through the intercession of St. Jude, of his leprosy.
A tongue of fire descending upon his head recalls the reception and the gift of the Holy Spirit that the Apostles
were blessed with on the Day of Pentecost. All saints manifest the power of the Holy Spirit and the symbols associated with
St. Jude make him the prototype of what a saint is; someone who brings the saving power of Christ and is empowered by the
The once forgotten Apostle (because of the similarity of his name and that of Judas the traitor)
now is one of the Church?ost popular. The packed Church singing loudly gave evidence of the Saint?opularity. This I knew
is the kind of participation that the liturgical reformers dream of taking place at Mass. The congregation of the very young
and ancient all seemed to be singing with an appreciation for what was taking place in the way that a crowd might recklessly
launch into a chorus of "Happy Birthday" for a loved one. When the song ended everyone dropped to their knees in
unison and following the lead of the priest recited the prayers of the novena.
There was a rhythm to the prayer
that seemed to free me from myself. The bustle of the city outside seemed to slowly fade into the background and Saint Jude
bringing the image of Jesus came to the forefront. The forgotten Apostle arriving in downtown Baltimore to yet another summons
by the crowd who all had traversed to this spot hauling their many needs like the King of Edessa of old.
and abruptly it all stopped. There was a silence that seemed to explode beyond the confines of the walls of the Shrine and
flood out into the streets so that absolutely nothing was heard. I looked at the words on the prayer card that had created
this explosion of silence. In parenthesis and in Italics were the words (Here Mention Your Petition).
to have entered another realm. Petitions although not spoken aloud were screaming from every part of the shrine. "St
Jude intercede for us!" For cancer, unfaithful spouses, lost children, unemployment, barrenness, aging, poverty, lost
faith..." the list went on and on. When it seemed that the walls of the shrine would collapse from the force of the petitions
being catapulted toward heaven from it, the priest broke the silence, "that I may praise God with you and all the elect
These words which everyone joined in praying seemed to break the momentary focus on self, a
fearful focus that recalled the fragile thread that is our grasp on this life. A thread that we avoid at all costs because
it reminds us that we cannot control our own lives let alone the lives of those we love and those that we do not. Mentioning
the petition served as a release but also recognition of this fact. God Alone!
The prayers continued and led
into the celebration of Mass where the participation of the faithful remained at a high devotional pitch. The need to encounter
the Lord who St. Jude bore culminated as we walked toward the altar to receive the Body of Christ. In my mind the words of
Jesus to the lepers, "Do you believe I can do this for you?" filled my mind. It was the moment of encounter, the
second of decision that we all make each time we come to our response of "Amen."
Walking back to
the pew I thought of the exchange that had just taken place. Whether by an open mouth voicing petitions or open hands outstretched
handing over all of our needs the priest had placed the Body of Christ.
When the mass concluded everyone once again exited
the pews and headed to spots around the altar. At first I wasn't sure why, but then I noticed the priest was offering each
in succession the opportunity to kiss a reliquary containing a bone of St. Jude.
Kissing a bone seems ghoulish
if one is reverencing death but of course that is not what was going on at the Shrine. Rather the bone represented the life
of St. Jude and his continued living presence because of his association with Jesus. In kissing the relic I realized that
my needs and ultimately my very life were secure as long as I remained in Christ who alone can save me.
In this final
act I felt like King Abagar welcoming my friend, the emissary of Jesus, Jude the Apostle. On this Wednesday afternoon in
downtown Baltimore he had once again brought the image of Jesus to a people in need.
Walking out of the Church
and back into the streets everything seemed to have changed. Those keeping vigil on the streets were absent as I returned
to the spot where I had parked my car. Perhaps some had experienced the grace being sought by the novena prayers inside the
Church. I'm sure others had walked away waiting for another time, another possible encounter. Opening the door of my car,
I noticed that the parking meter read "expired". I drove away.
History of the Shrine
(from the Shrine Web Site)
St. Jude Shrine is located in downtown Baltimore, Maryland, which has been staffed and operated by Pallottine Fathers and
Brothers for over 80 years. The Shrine was entrusted to the Pallottines by the Archbishop of Baltimore in 1917. Around the
outset of World War II, devotion to St. Jude was reaching meaningful proportions and so it was decided to establish regular
At first the Novena Services attracted only the local parishioners, but in a short time it became
a city-wide Center where people of all walks of life came to pray to St. Jude. It was not long before the Shrine was known
beyond the city limits of Baltimore, and people from the suburbs-in increasing numbers-began coming to the Shrine every Wednesday.
This increase made it necessary to have four Novena Servies every Wednesday. Today this Shrine is a nationwide Center
of St. Jude Devotions. People from every section of the United States keep in touch with the Shrine by mail.
St. Jude Shrine--Baltimore, MD
Visit the St. Jude Shrine at:
St. Jude Shrine
512 W. Saratoga Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Or ONLINE by CLICKING HERE
St. Jude Shrine, Baltimore
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