Crossing the Tiber With the Help of Sts. Simon & Jude
We will be celebrating the feast of the Apostles Sts. Simon and Jude this Friday. The knowledge the Church possesses regarding these saints is sparse, save a few life details and the epistle attributed to St. Jude. However, even where there is minimal knowledge, the Church can glean great wisdom. For this task, we turn to Pope Benedict XVI’s treatment of these saints in his work The Apostles, published by OSV.
St. Simon is the patron saint of curriers, sawmen, sawyers and tanners. He is often depicted with mundane objects, such as fish or a boat, or as a man being sawn in half. Scripture refers to him as the “Cananean” and the “Zealot.” In illuminating the etymology of these two names, our Holy Father tells us that the two are related in their mutual expression of one who is “jealous” or “ardent” regarding God and his Chosen People. The Pope tells us it is “highly likely” that if St. Simon was not somehow involved in the “nationalist movement of the Zealots,” then he was “at least marked by passionate attachment to his Jewish identity.”
The Holy Father presents us with an interesting juxtaposition: St. Simon, wrapped in a passion for God and his people, and St. Matthew, a “tax collector that was frowned upon as entirely impure.” What does this mean? “It was people who interested [Jesus Christ], not social classes or labels.” Therefore, we must “bear in mind that the group of the Twelve is the prefiguration of the Church, where there must be room for all charisms, peoples and races, all human qualities that find their composition and are united in communion with Jesus.”
St. Jude is the well-known patron of impossible causes, hospital workers and hospitals. He is almost always shown with a medal bearing Christ’s image, along with other markers, such as a flame above his head or various maritime symbols. Our Holy Father comments on the traits of St. Jude that have brought so many of us to love — and dread — his forceful words. The saint “puts Christians on guard against those who make a pretext of God’s grace to excuse their own licentiousness,” “compares them to fallen angels,” says “they walk the way of Cain,” and uses such phrases as “waterless clouds” and “fruitless trees.” St. Jude tells it like it is.
In our modern age, St. Jude’s words are difficult to hear because we are “no longer accustomed to using language that is so polemic.” However, in a world of political correctness and a regime of relativism, we must remember how St. Jude was able to cut straight to the heart of an issue by “mincing no words.” May we have his courage and his prudence.
Sts. Simon & Jude
Nowhere do the voices of Sts. Simon and Jude intertwine with such force and fecundity in the modern world as in ecumenism. St. Simon reminds us that the Church is for everyone, and our call is to passionately draw to the Truth of the Gospel the broad world longing to hear it. However, ecumenism cannot be merely an unending, watered-down search for religious commonality. It cannot be characterized by misplaced caution and a fear of mentioning God-given Catholic truths that may offend others. Here St. Jude can temper our spirit of ecumenism, inspiring us to speak the Truth with boldness and conviction.
Acknowledging the new ecumenical path set for us by Vatican II, our Holy Father nevertheless warns, “This path of dialogue, while so necessary, must not make us forget our duty to rethink and to highlight just as forcefully the main and indispensable aspects of our Christian identity.”
A brilliant example of proper balance in this can be seen in the dialogue surrounding the Anglican Ordinariate. In allowing Anglicans to bring to the Church many of their own rich traditions, the Holy Father has embraced the approach of St. Simon, who revealed to us a Church large enough for all peoples and their charisms. And yet, as with the Apostle Jude, the Pope also proclaimed the steadfast Truth of Holy Mother Church with an unwavering resolve — or our brothers and sisters may have missed seeing with clarity the reward and blessings awaiting them on the far bank of the Tiber.
I personally crossed the Tiber from Anglicanism because of this same priceless balance: I was welcomed with generosity to see the beauty and Truth of the Catholic Church — and, because that Truth was preached with clarity and zeal, I could plainly see the fullness of my own salvation on the river’s other side.
Let us always remember that the Church is for all people.
Let us always remember to proclaim her truths with passion and vigor.
And let us always thank God for saints who help us to see the full picture — to show us when “either-or” will simply not do.
May they help to lead us and those we meet closer to salvation.
Sts. Simon and Jude, pray for us.