Wednesday, 21 September 2016

A visit to the Shrine of Saint Jude

A friend of Saint Jude, Marguerite Cook, a parishioner at Saint Joseph's church in Bedford recently visited our Shrine. We wanted to share her excellent article about that special visit: 

A loyal group of parishioners in my church of St. Joseph's Bedford pray the rosary before daily Mass. At the end of the rosary prayers, a single voice calls out  “ Saint Jude, pray for us “ The voice belonged to a lady called Bernadette, and she is not alone in her love of Saint Jude, the apostle and martyr; Patron Saint of Hopeless Cases (seen by many as a Saint of Hope). Saint Jude has devout followers in every corner of the world and thousands of people visit the Shrine of Saint Jude in Faversham, Kent. Many national newspapers and magazines carry in their personal columns a thank-you to Saint Jude, as prayers to Saint Jude often brings help to seemingly hopeless cases. People turn to St Jude praying for assistance in sickness and help in low points in their life.

On my last visit to my home city of Canterbury, I decided to pay a visit to the National Shrine of Saint Jude to light a candle for Bernadette. Faversham, in beautiful Kent, is an historic market town ten miles from Canterbury, and forty-eight miles from London. 

I sat in Canterbury bus station waiting for the Faversham bus wondering how hard it would be to find Saint Jude's Shrine, when an elderly lady sat by me and in conversation asked me why I was going to Faversham. I told her I was visiting Saint Jude's Shrine in Tanners Street. On the bus this kind lady asked a couple of people to help make sure her “friend” got off the bus at the Shrine .I started to feel Saint Jude wanted me to pay a visit .

Saint Jude's Shrine is delightful. It lies in an annex room below the church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The church and shrine are under the expert care of the Carmelite Order. The fine church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel looks unusual outside ,as it was once a Quaker school and then became a cinema. The interior design of the Church is very beautiful, and I especially admired the backdrop behind the high altar of the Crucifixion of Our Lord.

The shrine of Saint Jude was founded by Fr. Elias Lynch, O. Carm in 1955. It was established because of popular demand and a deep love of Saint Jude, as he is a favourite saint of many people.

This holy place can be entered through the church, or by the Holy Door; this door leads out into a spacious, attractive garden bordered by a stream. The garden has a large area of grass which in the Spring was edged with bluebells and tulips. In the grass there are lovely colourful pictures of the Rosary which is called the Rosary Way. 

I entered the Shrine of Saint Jude from the garden. Inside, the room is ablaze with colour, with vase upon vase of donated fresh flowers, vibrant stained glass images, and at the heart of the shrine is a striking 15th Century statue of Saint Jude Thaddeus. This impressive statue stands on red cloth in front of a sparkling mosaic – representing the Fire of Pentecost. Row upon row of candles offer up prayers to this well-loved saint, whose relic can be seen in a glorious monstrance. 

Saint Jude Thaddeus was one of the beloved twelve apostles, and also a relation of Jesus. The New Testament includes one of his letters, which stresses that the faithful should persevere in harsh and difficult circumstances. It was Saint Jude that asked Jesus at the Last Supper why He chose to reveal Himself only to the disciples. Saint Jude received the reply from Jesus, ”If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home in him.” (John 14:22)
After receiving the power of the Holy Spirit with Our Lady, and his fellow apostles at Pentecost, St Jude went forth to preach. We are told he preached around Judea, Samaria, Idumea and Syria. Saint Jude died a martyr, and his feast day is 28th October; which is shared with Saint Simon. Saint Jude's relics lie in the Vatican in Rome and there are some in Faversham too.

In Faversham, I grew to love the busy and small Shrine of Saint Jude; who is a saint who brings hope to many. I will return, as I have discovered a new favourite saint, a friend I will pray to; and I know he will pray for me. A visit here brings peace and contentment to all the pilgrims, many of whom are seeking help with distressing problems.

I sat for some time in the Shrine of Saint Jude, watching a church party who were busy writing petitions and lighting candles. When the church party left ,a young woman came to visit with her mother and young son. The young woman said to her mother that no priest was available to speak with her, and then her eyes fell on me. The young woman came up to me and asked if I had a special devotion to Saint Jude. I muttered a suitable reply. Briefly she told me of her husband’s tragic circumstances, and then she suddenly asked if I visit Lourdes. Surprised, I told her that I was going to Lourdes in a few weeks’ time. The young woman then said that she and her family had always wanted to visit Lourdes, but were unable to do so, and then asked if I would say a prayer for her husband at Lourdes. I asked her to write his name down, and then tucked the paper in my purse. The young lady seemed relieved and happy as she went away.

Lourdes is a beautiful jewel in the crown of the Catholic Church. It is a place where Our Lady appeared to Saint Bernadette on eighteen separate occasions. The final apparition was on 16 July, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. 

During my visit to Lourdes I had many names written on a card asking for prayers, but I knew I had a very important one; my Faversham family. I put their name and the names of all the other petitioners in a box in the Grotto, and then went into the Basilica of the Holy Rosary and lit a candle especially for the Faversham family. I felt as though I had completed an important assignment as I watched the candle burn and I thought of the many candles burning in Saint Jude's Shrine.

On my return from Lourdes I noticed in the personal column of my newspaper, “Thanks to the Blessed Virgin and Saint Jude for favours received.” I hope my Faversham family are also able to give thanks.

“Saint Jude, Holy Apostle and Martyr, pray for us”