Relic of St. Jude visits Naples Parish

A nationwide pilgrimage of a unique first-class relic of St. Jude Thaddeus – patron saint of lost causes and desperate situations – visited the Diocese of Venice on Feb. 27, 2024.

The relic – the forearm of St. Jude, encased in a wooden reliquary carved into the shape of an upright arm imposing a blessing – was on display at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples. This ancient relic of St. Jude – often called the “Apostle of the Impossible” – is currently traveling in the U.S. for the first time. The tour started in Sept. 2023 and concludes in May 2024. Making stops in 100 cities, its mission is to bring comfort and hope to those in need.

Fourth through eighth-grade students from St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School were given the privilege of being the first to be in the presence of the relic. Displays noting the history of St. Jude and of the relic, were placed at the back of the church as each students awaited their turn to approach the display case. Fourth grade teachers used the opportunity to take have a mini retreat for the students, doing a deeper dive into the life of St. Jude, the apostles, and of relics of saints in general.

Father Casey Jones, Pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton, said it was a privilege to have the relic at the Parish. He was afforded the opportunity to touch the relic to a statue of St. Jude on the east side of the church. “This was a great honor to be able to handle the reliquary. This is allowed only in this special circumstance.”

Father Jones was unsure of whether people would participate in the visitation, but before the official public display began at 2 p.m., more than 100 were waiting patiently by the front doors and the line never diminished throughout the afternoon and into the evening. Confessionals were open prior to a 7 p.m. Mass. The display visit concluded at 10 p.m. The Fourth Degree members of the Knights of Columbus stood as an honor guard throughout the display of the relic.

As the faithful proceeded forward, some paused while others knelt before the relic, pressing their hand to the case, or touching a rosary or other religious article to the case.

Catherine Jackson of Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers said she was near tears being so close to the relic. “St. Jude was someone who knew Jesus personally. And to be that close to even a part of that person is incredible. I feel so blessed.”

The nationwide tour of the St. Jude relic was presented by Treasures of the Church, a traveling ministry of evangelization that brings a host of relics to various Catholic churches nationwide. Father Carlos Martins, Director of Treasures of the Church, is accompanying the St. Jude relic on the tour. Treasures of the Church is a Vatican-sponsored ministry utilizing the saints’ relics which has visited the Diocese of Venice in the past with groupings of relics of more than 150.

Father Jones and Father Martins concelebrated a Mass in honor of the visiting relic at 7 p.m.  Father Martins, a priest of the Companions of the Cross, was the homilist and spoke of St. Jude’s close family relationship to Jesus, and his missionary work as an apostle.

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. He 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.

St. Jude suffered martyrdom in Beruit during the first century together with another Apostle, St. Simon the Zealot, with whom he is usually connected. St. Jude’s body was transferred from Beirut to Rome during the time of Emperor Constantine and placed in a crypt within St. Peter’s Basilica. His remains are under the main altar of St. Joseph, in a tomb along with those of St. Simon. The arm was removed from Saint Jude’s tomb centuries ago and placed into the reliquary. Its permanent residence is the Church of San Salvatore in Lauro, in central Rome.

Pilgrims were able to receive an extraordinary Plenary Indulgence issued by Pope Francis for attending this event.

The tour of the relic continues with additional stops in Florida before going on to Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Texas.

Relic aids in enhancing Parish Feast Day celebration

St. Therese Parish in North Fort Myers celebrated its Patronesses Feast Day on Oct. 1, 2021, with a Mass and celebration, the first Feast Day since the Parish obtained a First-Class Relic of the Saint.

Father Jan Antonik, Parish Administrator, told a large gathering how honored and blessed the Parish was to have a First-Class Relic of St. Thérèse, something he strived to acquire since his appointment in early 2020. The relic was gifted to the Parish courtesy of Father Bob Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples, where it had been on display in the St. Agnes Adoration Chapel for many years. Bishop Frank J. Dewane approved and facilitated the transfer of the relic between the two Parishes

In North Fort Myers, the relic is now on display in front of a stained-glass window of St. Thérèse, and rests in a glass reliquary, the base of which has an engraved single rose and a plaque thanking Father Kantor and St. Agnes Parish.

“This relic allows us to be closer to our Patroness, St. Thérèse, who shared with us how to allow God to work through us using simple acts of kindness toward others and is an inspiration,” Father Antonik said. “She was so blessed with wisdom and spirituality. What took St. Thomas of Aquinas decades and thousands of pages, St. Thérèse accomplished in her little book – her diary, “The Story of a Soul.’”

St. Thérèse was a Carmelite nun who was born in 1873. She entered a cloistered life at the age of 15, living in near obscurity at a convent in Lisieux, France and died at the age of 24. She was canonized in 1925 and in 1997 St. John Paul II proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church in light of holiness and the influence of her teaching on spirituality in the Church.

Also, known as “St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face,” “The Little Flower of Jesus” or “The Little Flower,” she had a simple yet powerful message of doing small things every day and doing them well, which still resonates in the hearts of millions today. Her “Little Way” of allowing God to work through her life has become a guiding light for many.

Following Mass, single roses were distributed for the faithful to give to others as a “little way” of spreading the Love of Christ to others. Many also paused to view the relic and/or light a candle. A reception was held as part of the Feast Day celebration.

“St. Thérèse means so much to me and to my whole family,” Carmelita Moreno explained. “We prayed to ‘The Little Flower’ and it helped my niece overcome a childhood illness when we thought we would lose her. St. Thérèse’s simple way also helps guide my own life, making it easier to overcome the burdens of the world.”