The Gospel passage for this week (Luke 18:1-8) tells of a widow pestering a judge in order to obtain justice. Jesus used this parable to instruct His followers of the value of persistence in prayer. It can be very hard to be persistent in prayer, especially when no answer seems to be forthcoming. Yes, those are the moments, days, months, and years when faith is truly tested. Do we believe enough to keep pestering God while trusting that the answer will come in the manner and time in which God intends?
Perhaps it is fitting that this week also marks the time for the annual Novena to St. Jude (October 20 – October 28). Of course, we can make a novena at any time of year, but this particular time frame corresponds with the saint's feast day of October 28th.
St. Jude is known as the patron of impossible causes. In one of her visions, Jesus inspired St. Bridget of Sweden, who lived from 1303 – 1373, to turn to St. Jude with great faith and confidence. In accordance with his surname, Thaddeus (which means generous, courageous, kind), Our Lord said, "He will show himself most willing to give help."
The Gospel tells us that St. Jude was a brother of St. James the Less, also one of the twelve. They are described by St. Matthew (13:55) as the "brethren" of Jesus, probably cousins. The Hebrew word for "brethren" indicates a blood relationship. His mother, Mary, was a cousin of the Blessed Mother.
After the death and resurrection of Jesus, St. Jude traveled throughout Mesopotamia, Libya, and Persia with St. Simon preaching and converting many to Christianity. St. Jude died a martyr's death. Later, his body was brought to Rome and placed in a crypt under St. Peter's Basilica.
Each year at this time, my parish holds a novena of masses to ask for St. Jude's intercession. The evening masses coincide with the time at which my children are getting ready for bed. As a result, I am not able to go. A few years ago, however, when my children's bedtime was earlier and we lived right around the corner from the Church, I was able to make the novena. I indeed had a very desperate cause to pray for. I was praying for my older son to be potty-trained. He was 3½ and I had been trying to train him for nine months. To say it was an arduous process would be a huge understatement. I had tried every suggestion in every parenting book and he was no closer to being trained than he was on day one of the process. He would cry and scream whenever he would even try to use the potty. He would say he needed to go and would try for a half-hour with no success. He would pull up his pants and go in them fifteen minutes later. It was all so frustrating.
His doctor worked with me for a while after he had been treated for severe constipation. My child was so stressed out by potty training he refused to poop and as a result ended up with chronic leaking stool. After that problem was resolved with regular doses of mineral oil, the doctor set me up with a schedule of "trying" and rewards to be offered. When my child resolutely refused to cooperate, the doctor told me there was nothing I could do, saying that he would use the potty when he was ready. I felt abandoned and a failure at my first big test of motherhood. All of my friends' children who were of a similar age were trained. I endured stories of children being trained in a week and I would go home and cry. Every time I overheard a proud mother at the park telling how her two-year old was now in underpants, I wanted to shrink into the ground. I prayed and prayed but received no answer. So, I turned to St. Jude.
I sat there in that Church every night for those nine days, hoping beyond hope that eventually my child would learn. I looked around at my fellow petitioners and reckoned that I was probably the only person there praying for a child to use a potty. It seems like such a silly thing to pray for, but nothing is too small to bring to the Lord, and I assure you, at that moment in our lives, this was anything but a small problem.
The novena came and went and my child continued to pee on the floor, until one day in December when he got up in the morning, went to the bathroom and told me he didn't need me to help. He continued to use the bathroom all that day and the day after and the day after that. He was completely trained. I had my miracle. Maybe that day would have come anyway. It is possible. But I am inclined to believe that St. Jude had a great deal to do with it.
Prayer to St. Jude
St. Jude, glorious apostle, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the name of the person (who betrayed our Lord) has caused you to be forgotten by many, but the true Church invokes you universally as the Patron of things despaired of. Pray for me, who is so miserable; pray for me, that I may finally receive the consolations and the succour of Heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly (ADD YOUR PERSONAL REQUEST HERE), and that I may bless God with the Elect Throughout Eternity.