Saint Jude and Friendship - part 1
by Dr Johan Bergström-Allen, TOC
So many people speak affectionately about Saint Jude being their “friend”. Pilgrims often refer to “our friend Saint Jude” when they come to the Apostle’s National Shrine in Faversham. Devotees get in touch with us Carmelites via the Shrine Office and social media, asking for the prayers of Jude Thaddeus “our faithful friend”. The newsletter that the Carmelites distribute from the National Shrine is likewise addressed to “Dear Friends of Saint Jude”, and through the Guild of Saint Jude I feel part of a network of friends.
One definition of friends is “the family we choose for ourselves”. A friend is someone we feel especially close to, someone we trust. Everyone has passing acquaintances, but friendship is a much stronger bond. We bond to friends with ties of mutual affection. We can share our hopes and dreams with a friend, as well as our problems and worries. Friends are people we can be intimate with, speaking informally and honestly. When I talk to Saint Jude in prayer, I like to speak to him as a friend:
Saint Jude, friend of God and friend of mine, thank you for your love and care for me, and for those I hold dear. Help me, today, to be a true friend to those I encounter. Like you, I want to be a reflection of God’s love in the world. Saint Jude, my friend, pray for us.
Friends with God
The Carmelite friars – who established the National Shrine of Saint Jude in Faversham 65 years ago – are brothers in a contemplative religious order. One simple definition of ‘contemplation’ is ‘being friends with God’. God already loves us, and we don’t have to convince God to do so, because love is God’s very nature. All we have to do in the relationship is to turn to God with open hearts, and accept God’s free gift of friendship.
If we are unsure how to do that – how to deepen our friendship with God – a great way to learn is to follow the examples of Saint Jude and his fellow apostles, those who first followed in the footsteps of Jesus and became intimate with him. In the Gospel accounts we get wonderful glimpses of the warm friendship that existed, and still exists, between Jesus and those who lived alongside him in Palestine 2000 years ago.
Almighty God, you sent your Son Jesus into the world to share the Good News of how much you love us. No one is separated from your free offer of friendship. I offer you today my open heart to love as you do, my open mind to know your will, and my open hands to serve those around me, especially the most poor and needy. Amen. Saint Jude, our friend, pray for us.
Friends with our neighbours
As an apostle, one of Jesus’s most devoted followers, Saint Jude was no doubt present when Our Lord said that the greatest commandments are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart”, and to “love your neighbour as yourself”. When a lawyer asked Jesus “Who is my neighbour?”, Our Lord replied by telling him the parable of the Good Samaritan who helped a traveller who had been robbed and beaten half to death. The neighbour in that story was not the priest who passed by on the other side, or the Levite (who assisted at religious rites in the Temple). It was the Samaritan – from a group of people looked down on by Jesus’s own contemporaries – who “showed mercy”. Jesus teaches us that our religious observances are worthless if we fail to show mercy to those in need, and friendship can come from the most unexpected people.
Lord Jesus, best of friends, may my faith not lead me to think that I am better than other people, or prevent me from helping others in messy situations. When I see my neighbour in need, whoever and wherever that might be, give me a merciful heart full of friendship, ready to bring your healing touch and word of hope. Amen. Saint Jude, friend of all, pray for us.