St. Jude is not as many think, Judas Iscariot. In fact, Christians have tried for many years to distinguish between the two, because like Judas, St. Jude was one of Christ’s apostles. He may be referred to as Thaddeus or Jude, son of James, to make this distinction clearer.
The saint has great importance in the early proselytization of Christianity. He is considered one of the founders of the Armenian Christian Church, and his travels after Christ’s death, according to legend, include trips to Samaria, Syria, Mesopotamia and Libya. He is considered to have suffered greatly for his open evangelical practice. Also, according to legend, his father was executed to punish St. Jude for spreading Christianity.
Like many early Christians who were open in trying to spread the message of Christianity, St. Jude was martyred and probably died in about 66 CE, in Persia. He also may have authored the Epistle of Jude, which is considered part of the apocrypha. Modern Biblical scholars very much doubt that he was the author of this text, since it is written in fluent Greek and more closely resembles styles of 2nd century writing.
What many find interesting about St. Jude is that, in the 1800s, he became popularly known as the patron saint of hopeless causes. People might pray to him to intervene only when their straits were most difficult. This practice originates in Italy, and soon became popular in the US, starting first in Chicago.
If prayers were answered and the desperation of a hopeless cause was lifted, people often felt obligated to publish a prayer to St. Jude in the local newspaper. Today, because of the expense of publishing in newspapers, many people publish these prayers for free on the Internet. According to ritual — in particular, Catholic ritual — prayers to St. Jude have to be said or published for nine successive days to properly thank the saint for his intercession and to honor Christ.
The saint is also associated with the renowned St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, which has been tremendously successful in researching and treating childhood cancer. The hospital is open to anyone, regardless of ability to pay or religious orientation, and is one of the finest children’s hospitals in the US. It is a hospital for those with the desperate and worthy cause of looking to cure childhood cancers.