Catholic Standard El Pregonero
Classifieds Buy Photos

Relic of ‘the arm that embraced Our Lord’ venerated at St. Jude Parish

On a crisp and sunny Saturday afternoon Feb. 3, a first-class relic of St. Jude the Apostle was displayed at the Shrine of St. Jude in Rockville, Maryland.

Father Paul Lee, the pastor of the parish, celebrated a Mass in honor of the visiting relic. Concelebrants included Father Robert J. Kosty, senior priest at the parish, and Father Lawrence C. Swink.

The homilist for the Mass was Father Carlos Martins, founder and director of Treasures of the Church, a Vatican-sponsored evangelization ministry utilizing the saints’ relics. In his homily, Father Martins – a priest of the Companions of the Cross and a renowned exorcist – spoke of St. Jude’s close family relationship to Jesus, and his missionary work as an apostle.

The priest documented how St. Jude’s life was one irony after another, including how he was sometimes confused with Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus. He also noted that Thaddeus was not Jude’s surname or middle name but instead a common nickname of the time, analogous to the nickname “Bubba” in American society.  

Speaking to a packed church filled with diverse pilgrims, Father Martins described how St. Jude was Jesus’s first cousin, whose mother, Mary of Cleophas, was a sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary. His told the congregation that the relic was actually bones from the arm of St. Jude, documenting how and where the saint died and that he was buried where he was martyred with his body undisturbed, due to Roman law and superstition. 

In 335, Constantine, the first Christian emperor, brought St. Jude’s remains to Rome, when the Old St. Peter’s Basilica was being built. St. Jude’s remains, along with those of his missionary partner, Simon, were buried under that basilica, where they have remained until leaving Rome for the first time for this 100-city tour of America, which began in September of 2023.

The Shrine of St. Jude hosted an orderly and respectful procession of people of all ages and ethnicities who came to venerate the relic. The relic was displayed in a shoulder-high wood and glass cabinet bearing the reliquary, which was made to resemble a life-sized forearm, with the hand extended in the sign of a blessing. The Mass was standing-room only. Between 1,000 to 1,200 attended the Mass while more than 1,500 venerated the relic from the closing of the Mass until 9 p.m.

The arm of St. Jude is encased in a wooden reliquary carved in the shape of an arm, imparting a blessing. (CS photo by Javier Diaz)

Standing guard at either side of the display case were members of the Knights of Columbus St. Joseph Manyanet Council #5567, including Past Grand Knight Alex Lopez-Bueno, a St. Jude’s parishioner and parent of two students at St. Jude Regional Catholic School.

Lopez-Bueno recalled standing guard over the relic and said, “I had the feeling that I wanted to cry, and a lady came up who couldn’t get the cross around her neck close enough to touch the glass of the display case. I told her to try harder and to say the words Father Martins had instructed the congregation in his homily to say when approaching the relic, ‘St. Jude has a gift for you,’ and she started to cry, as did I.”

Above and below, people pray during a Mass celebrated at the Shrine of St. Jude in Rockville, Maryland in honor of the first-class relic of St. Jude that was put on display for veneration there. (CS photos by Javier Diaz)

As he spoke, he took from his pocket his gold rosary, a gift from his wife on his 50th birthday, and he said, “The whole time I was guarding the relic, I had the rosary pressed against the glass. I said to St. Jude, ‘my friend, you know the pain in my neck and in my back; help me’.” During treatment for a life-threatening illness, he asked the Lord for more time in his life, saying, “I will be your soldier of your reign.”

Another St. Jude parishioner, Natalie Craven, who attended with her husband Michael, said that she had not expected to be so emotional. She said that she wasn’t sure she had that much attachment to the saint himself while being so devoted to the parish and school her son attended. But she went on to say, “When Father Martins said in his homily, ‘that arm touched the arm of Jesus,’ that really struck me.” Her husband Michael added that Father Martins’ homily was very approachable as well as informative.  

People venerate a first-class relic of St. Jude the Apostle that was displayed Feb. 3 at the Shrine of St. Jude in Rockville, Maryland. (CS photos by Javier Diaz)

Terry Heineman, wife of Deacon Bill Heineman of Our Lady of Grace Parish, spoke of one part of Father Martins’ homily, which really moved her – the story of the wife of the print shop owner who made the catechetical banners and posters for the relic’s tour.

Father Martins recalled how he brought the relic to the print shop and asked the owner, Doug Edwards, to bring his wife to the shop so she could venerate the relic. Noreen Edwards, who was disabled as a result of brain surgery, on that day was too ill to come to the shop or even to have Father Martins visit her at home. So, Father Martins and Doug prayed to St. Jude to intercede with Jesus for Noreen’s healing. When Doug returned home that day, he called Father Martins and screamed into the phone, “My wife is darting about the house like a young girl!” Terry Heineman also said it was a privilege for the shrine to host the relic on its tour.    

The exposition of the relic was well-attended by members of the parish’s school community. School parent Lina Yahaira León Lázaro and her husband Oscar Tellez attended with their four younger children. Leon said that her younger children were initially anxious about seeing an actual human bone in the reliquary, but once viewing the relic of St. Jude, she noted that they were all feeling “so blessed that that very arm 2024 years ago hugged our Lord directly! That arm touched our Jesus; that arm probably handed food to our Savior and King!”

After departing the Shrine of St. Jude, the relic was venerated Monday, Feb. 5 at St. John Neumann Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland; and Tuesday, Feb. 6 at St. John Francis Regis Church in Hollywood, Maryland. 

(Michelle Blanchard Ardillo is a freelance writer and retired Catholic school teacher who is currently working on a book for middle school children on the apparitions of Mary. The Shrine of St. Jude is her home parish.)