This weekend is the two day Saint Jude Celebration and for the last weeks the shrine team have been getting things ready: new hymns sheets developed and printed, Mass texts re-read and errors corrected, signage made for the pilgrims, hundreds of bottles of Saint Jude oil labelled, filled and boxed, flowers are being arranged to adorn the altar, the repository moved from the hallway next to the shrine up to the office where it is all laid out on tables so the pilgrims have easy access. Today, Thursday 22nd, the marquee is being set-up to house the candles which will be lit during the weekend as well as desks where pilgrims can write out their mass intentions and petitions for Saint Jude’s intercession.
There is also another side to the preparation for the celebrations in honour of Saint Jude which came to me as I was preparing bottles of Saint Jude Oil. This is what I will call the spiritual dimension. Of course we are all aware the oil is blessed with the relic of Saint Jude and an accompanying prayer prior to being bottled; the reason we can only ask for a donation for each bottle the pilgrims take with them. But in the process of bottling the oil you enter into the pastoral care of those who will be anointed with the oil; it is in enabling this oil to be used that we become a link in that chain which culminates in the anointing of a pilgrim on the forehead with the oil. The blessing of the oil is done in the name of the God and of His Son Jesus; we ask God to bless the oil as a sign of his love for us; we invoke the intercession of Saint Jude, Apostle and kinsman of Jesus and ask that the Holy Spirit be poured into our hearts. At the anointing we again ask God, through the intercession of Saint Jude, to free us from anxiety and help us in all our needs. And so even the act of filling oil into a bottle becomes in some way a pastoral act which is a part of our ministry as Shrine team.
In a similar way many other aspects of the Saint Jude Celebrations have a value above and beyond their material worth. The things sold in the repository help to propagate an understanding in and a widening of the devotion to Saint Jude; the candles bought and lit become a vehicle of prayer – as the psalmist says: let my prayer come before you like incense; the flowers show our devotion to God and the desire to adorn everything to his honour. I am sure that other people will be able to think of other examples of the spiritual side of the Saint Jude Celebrations. The important thing is to realise that these celebrations function on so many different levels: the devotion is not limited to the prayer at the shrine but is an integral part of our lives as Christians and a devotees of Saint Jude.
Fr Michael Manning, O.Carm