Sunday, November 27, 2016

Saint Jude: A Friend in Hard Times

As a young boy, my mother taught me the prayer and novena to St. Jude and encouraged me to pray to him in both good and bad times. I hope you'll find this to be a very good read about St. Jude, most especially for children. Twelve-year old Michael Aquilina III wrote Saint Jude: A Friend in Hard Times in 2004 (published by Pauline Books & Media).

From the forward of the book by Dr. Scott Hahn, Founder, President and Chairman of the Board of The St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology: "The first time Michael Aquilina III visited my home, he must have been nine years old. He came to play with my sons, Jeremiah and Joseph, but he detoured through my book-lined office. He looked up at the rows of towering shelves and turned to me without hesitation, saying: "You should write a book about Saint Jude." It wasn't a request; it was a statement. And he repeated it on several other visits.

As a father of six, I've learned to be open to the Holy Spirit speaking through the mouths of children. I knew, however, that a book on Saint Jude was not in my near future, as I was already under contract to write several other books. So I told Michael:"I think God has placed that wish in your heart so that you might write the book."

That was the last I heard of the Saint Jude book - until, years later, when I received Michael's finished manuscript in my mailbox, along with a gracious invitation to write some words of introduction. I'm pleased to comply.

Since I became a Catholic in 1986, I've had a great fondness for Saint Jude. Early in my studies, I discovered that I was born on Jude's feast day, October 28, in 1957. For that reason - and because I've always been a sort of "lost cause" - I believe this Apostle has watched over me with great care.

Like Michael Aquilina, I hope that many, many people will come to know Saint Jude's watchful care and his mighty prayer before the throne of God. The last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, shows us twice that Saint Jude holds a prominent place in heaven. God has blessed Jude as an Apostle, and so his name is on one of the twelve foundation stones of the heavenly Jerusalem (see Rev 21:18). As a martyr, too, Jude raises a powerful prayer, fully aware of what is happening in our lives on earth (see Rev 6:9-10). Even now, Saint Jude is very much with us, in that "great cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1), the communion of saints.

Michael Aquilina has written a book I could not have written, even though I am a teacher of theology. For every book of devotion is a special grace from God. My own books are God's gifts to me and my readers; this book is God's gift to Michael and his readers, among whom I am proud to be the first.

Read on, then, and walk the roads of life with Saint Jude. May the Apostle lead you without delay to share in the friendship and close family bond that he himself shared with Jesus."

From the blog of Maureen Wittmann, who wrote the following article on how a 12-year-old, home-schooled boy came to write and publish this book: "St. Jude: A Friend in Hard Times, recently released by Pauline Books and Media, is a gem. Illustrator Keith Neely’s artwork is beautiful enough to turn this children’s book into a coffee table book. However, you wouldn’t want to leave it on your table for too long, as it is a terrific read. The historical information is interesting and the storytelling engaging. I don’t think that there is an historical account so easily accessible for children anywhere. Additionally, author Michael Aquilina III was able to bring St. Jude to life for my family. I want the saints to be real for my children, not just pictures on prayer cards, and this book accomplishes that end very well.

The amazing thing about all this is that Michael wrote St. Jude: A Friend in Need when he was just twelve-years old. It all started when Michael, at the ripe old age of seven, became fascinated with computers and read their manuals just for fun. One day, Michael had a computer problem that he could not fix himself. Nor could he find a solution in his beloved computer manuals. So he prayed for St. Jude’s help. In no time, the computer problem was resolved and Michael found a new friend in St. Jude, patron of desperate causes.

Michael then decided that family friend, and Catholic author, Scott Hahn needed to write a book about St. Jude and he kept his desire no secret. Whenever Michael would visit the Hahn home, he made a point to tell Dr. Hahn “You should write a book about St. Jude.” Dr. Hahn, open to the Holy Spirit working through a child, considered the idea but was already committed to several other book projects. Finally, he told Michael, “I think that God has placed that wish on your heart so that you might write the book.”

It wasn’t long after that Michael’s grandmother suffered a stroke. Michael and his father stayed with her for a week to help out. With a simple reminder from his father of Dr. Hahn’s words, Michael began writing his book during this out-of-town visit. In just one week he wrote the bulk of St. Jude, with the occasional writing tip from his father, Catholic author Mike Aquilina.

Now, not every child has a prominent author for a father or has the opportunity to hang out in the homes of other prominent authors. However, it was not these things that led to Michael’s writing of St. Jude. I submit that Michael has been able to achieve the extraordinary because he has parents who support and nourish his interests, from his fascination with computers to his love for St. Jude. Most importantly, he has parents who live the Church’s teaching of parents as primary educators.

“The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.” (CCC 2221)

As home educators, the Aquilinas have taken on the academic instruction of their six children firsthand. Most parents do not choose homeschooling, but that does not mean that they don’t have a significant influence on their children’s academic success. A parent’s attitude toward education can spell either academic success or failure, and creating an atmosphere of learning in the home can make all the difference in the world. The Aquilinas do this in ways that can be imitated by any parent. They let their children see them reading all of the time. They make time to read to their children. If you don’t like to read aloud, turn the tables and ask your child to read to you. In this way, you not only encourage learning, but also spend quality time with one another building bonds that will not easily break.

Also let your child see you write. Of course Michael sees his father writing all of the time as that is Mike’s fulltime job, but he also sees his mother Terri writing letters to friends, letters to the editor, and journal entries. In this way, the Aquilina children think that this is what people do and therefore they do it themselves. Writing skills can blossom when practiced outside of the classroom and applied to everyday activities. In order to achieve academic success, children need good writing skills. It is not enough to read, children need to be able to communicate the knowledge that they have accumulated onto the written page, especially if college is desired in their future. So write and write often.

One area that most of us do not think about is the worth of doing research. Let your children see you research a lot. Before you write that letter to the editor get on the Internet or go to the library to make sure that you have your facts straight. If the Aquilinas have a child ask a question that they cannot respond to honestly, they search for the answer. Pulling down your Bible, Catechism, or encyclopedia from your bookshelf will speak volumes to your child.

In preparing his book for publication, Michael had to do a lot of research. On more than one occasion, Michael’s editor at Pauline, Sr. Patricia Edward, had to ask Michael to give some background in Catholic doctrine, for example, on the intercession of the saints. Pauline also had scholars review the book who suggested that Michael be clearer in other areas. He had to point out where historians disagree on certain details of St. Jude’s life story. Had Michael’s parents not set a good example for him in doing their own research, Michael may not have been able to complete his book satisfactorily.

Just as children need to learn to communicate through writing, they need to learn to articulate their book knowledge through the spoken word. The Aquilinas suggest making many friends to cultivate the art of conversation. Invite your pastor, coworkers, and other interesting people to your dinner table. Go deep in conversation with your guests and include the children. Pray to your guardian angel and the guardian angels of your friends, and ask them to help guide your conversations and your correspondence. Let your conversations meander and don’t be afraid of silent moments.

Michael Aquilina III is very comfortable in the company of adults. I once saw him at a Catholic education conference where his father was a speaker. As his father answered questions, Michael was engaging in a conversation with several academics from a Catholic university and he did not look out of place at all. This has a lot to do with the fact that Michael and his siblings are always welcomed to listen in on their parent’s conversations.

If the children interject more than their parents desire, you would never know it. To sit in the Aquilina living room is to be surrounded by lively conversation with everyone participating. Children are never talked down to or asked to shush.

The art of conversation and the development of the intellect are also encouraged by the fact that the Aquilinas limit television viewing almost to the point of extinction. Yes, there are good programs on television, but even good television can be abused. It is much easier to encourage reading, writing, researching, and conversation, if your home is void of television noise. Besides, too much television makes for passive children with high needs for sensory stimulation and that is the death of the intellect.

Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. (CCC 2226)

While it is important to “teach” our children religion, most of what they learn is through modeling. We can sing the praises of Mother Church all day long, but if we ourselves do not truly love God and His Church then we cannot expect our children to love them.

When Terri Aquilina prays her rosary, her children naturally join her. When she attends Mass, goes to confession, prays before meals, her children want to participate with her. If parents show an interest in something then children, particularly young children, will also show an interest. Conversely, children will not find value in things that parents don’t care to do themselves.

Now as children grow older and they begin to question their religion, parents need to be prepared with answers. Prayerfully, your children are receiving a good education in religion through their parish school, CCD, or homeschool program, but that is not enough. Children, teens in particular, are sure to eventually ask: Why do we have to attend CCD? Or go to Mass? Or pray the family rosary? They need to hear from their parents why these things are important to them as Catholics.

Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the “first heralds” for their children. (CCC 2225)

Don’t be afraid to be a herald of the Faith to your children. Speak of God not only on Sunday, but everyday. In a society where we have separation of church and state, we sometimes forget that it is okay to speak of God in normal conversation. Sometimes we even forget that it is okay to have a religious opinion in the public square. You can be a herald of the Faith simply by voicing your opinion as a Catholic when neighbor or family member makes a statement that is contrary to your beliefs. Doing this, in a charitable manner of course, will teach your children the importance of faith matters.

For example, the Aquilina children know intrinsically the Church’s stance on human life. This is because they have a mother who will not hesitate to picket the local Planned Parenthood office or write a letter to the editor. They have a father who will not hesitate to speak up when the topic comes up in conversation with a friend. It is in this way that the children absorb Church teaching in a very natural way.

When I asked Michael, now fourteen-years old, if he found himself adopting his parent’s values, he answered quite simple, “Usually.” Yes, children have free will and they are sure to develop their own opinions and values, but the foundation upon which those values are built largely depends on the involvement, or lack of involvement, of parents.

Children in turn contribute to the growth in holiness of their parents. (CCC 2227)

Michael has always enjoyed hanging around his father’s home office. Once, when Michael was about eight-years old, his father Mike was working as a newspaper reporter and he was interviewing a rather famous sociologist of religion who was an agnostic. The man told Mike, in the course of the interview, that he would very much like to have faith, but he couldn’t quite bring himself there. Michael was sitting in the room, reading. After Mike got off the phone, he asked Michael to pray for the man’s conversion. Michael asked if the man prayed for faith. His father told him that he didn’t know and as a journalist he didn’t think it was his place to ask that question. Michael told him it was his Christian obligation to do so. So Mike contacted the man again. If we parents do our best to take on the role of primary educator, we will find ourselves in turn learning from our children, and sometimes in ways that we never imagined.

Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them. (CCC 2223)

As parents we all fail, sometimes daily. The Aquilinas are no exception; Mike and Terri are the first to admit that. It is an incredible responsibility to raise godly children, but we have a saint in our midst to help us when things seem hopeless. In his epistle, the second to last book in the Bible, St. Jude reminds us that we should persevere in harsh and difficult situations. Do not hesitate to seek St. Jude’s intercession. He sat with our Lord at the Last Supper, he performed miracles in the name of Jesus, he spread the Faith throughout the world as one of the first Christian missionaries, and he wants to help us persevere in our God-given roles as parents.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 2221 to 2231) expresses in beautiful terms the teaching of parents as primary educators of their children. It tells us that we are responsible for the formation of our children’s souls in addition to their intellect. It is through the application of this teaching that the biographer of St. Jude was nurtured."

You can order the book from This blog receives no commission from a purchase of the book through the previous link.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Jude: A Pilgrimage to the Saint of Last Resort

Another good read about St. Jude, Emmy Award-winning journalist Liz Trotta wrote Jude: A Pilgrimage to the Saint of Last Resort in 2005.

From HarperCollins Publishers: "The patron of desperate causes, Saint Jude is best known for his miraculous powers of healing and rescue, and has become a symbol of hope for children with cancer, people with AIDS, and sailors lost at sea. Yet the history of this apostle remains enigmatic and obscure. In this riveting investigation of faith and legend, award-winning journalist Liz Trotta follows in the footsteps of the New Testament's Jude through Italy, Turkey, the lands of old Armenia, and the United States. Part detective story, part pilgrimage, Jude unravels the mysteries of history's most elusive saint and investigates his lasting attraction for those who still believe in the healing powers of faith."

A substantial amount of Ms. Trotta's book currently is available to read on Google Book Search.

You can order the book from, among other places. This blog receives no commission from a purchase of the book through the previous link.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Thank You, St. Jude; Women's Devotion to the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes

A good, substantial read about St. Jude, author Robert A. Orsi wrote Thank You, St. Jude; Women's Devotion to the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes in 1996.

From Yale University Press: "St. Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes, is the most popular saint of the American Catholic laity, particularly among women. This fascinating book describes how the cult of St. Jude originated in 1929, traces the rise in Jude's popularity over the next decades, and investigates the circumstances that led so many Catholic women to feel hopeless and to turn to St. Jude for help. Robert A. Orsi tells us that the women who were drawn to St. Jude—daughters and granddaughters of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and Ireland—were the first generations of Catholic women to make lives for themselves outside of their ethnic enclaves. Orsi explores the ambitions and dilemmas of these women as they dealt with the pressures of the Depression and the Second World War, made modern marriages for themselves, entered the workplace, took care of relatives in their old neighborhoods, and raised children in circumstances very different from those of their mothers and grandmothers. Drawing on testimonies written in the periodicals devoted to St. Jude and on interviews with women who felt their lives were changed by St. Jude's intervention, Orsi shows how devotion to St. Jude enabled these women to negotiate their way amid the conflicting expectations of their two cultures—American and Catholic."

A substantial amount of Mr. Orsi's book currently is available to read on Google Book Search.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Danny's Promise

As a follow-on to last Sunday's post, the following is taken from the website of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital (Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.A.), entitled Danny's Promise. This week, I'd like to continue exploring Danny Thomas' prayers to St. Jude and, ultimately, his pledge to this saint. Click here to read the original information.

"More than 70 years ago, Danny Thomas, then a struggling young entertainer with a baby on the way, visited a Detroit church and was so moved during the Mass, he placed his last $7 in the collection box. When he realized what he’d done, Danny Thomas prayed for a way to pay the looming hospital bills. The next day, he was offered a small part that would pay 10 times the amount he’d given to the church. Danny Thomas had experienced the power of prayer.

Two years later, Danny Thomas had achieved moderate acting success in Detroit, but he was struggling to take his career to the next level. Once again, he turned to the church. Praying to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes, Danny Thomas asked the saint to “help me find my way in life, and I will build you a shrine.”

His career took a turn for the better, and soon he moved his family to Chicago to pursue career offers. A few years later, at another turning point in his life, Danny Thomas visited a church and remembered his pledge to St. Jude. Again he prayed to St. Jude and repeated his pledge to build a shrine to the saint if he would show him the way.

In the years that followed, Danny Thomas’ career flourished through films and television, and he became an internationally known entertainer. He remembered his pledge to build a shrine to St. Jude.

In the early 1950s, Danny Thomas began discussing with friends what concrete form his vow might take. Gradually, the idea of a children’s hospital, possibly in Memphis, Tenn., took shape. In 1955, Danny Thomas and a group of Memphis businessmen who had agreed to help support his dream seized on the idea of creating a unique research hospital devoted to curing catastrophic diseases in children. More than just a treatment facility, this would be a research center for the children of the world.

Danny Thomas started raising money for his vision of St. Jude in the early 1950s. By 1955, the local business leaders who had joined his cause began area fundraising efforts, supplementing Danny Thomas’ benefit shows that brought scores of major entertainment stars to Memphis. Often accompanied by his wife, Rose Marie, Danny Thomas crisscrossed the United States by car talking about his dream and raising funds at meetings and benefits. The pace was so hectic that Danny Thomas and his wife once visited 28 cities in 32 days. Although Danny Thomas and his friends raised the money to build the hospital, they now faced the daunting task of funding its annual operation.

To solve this problem, Danny Thomas turned to his fellow Americans of Arabic-speaking heritage. Believing deeply that these Americans should, as a group, thank the United States for the gifts of freedom given their parents, Danny Thomas also felt the support of St. Jude would be a noble way of honoring his immigrant forefathers who had come to America.

Danny Thomas’ request struck a responsive chord. In 1957, 100 representatives of the Arab-American community met in Chicago to form ALSAC® with a sole purpose of raising funds for the support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Since that time, with national headquarters in Memphis and regional offices throughout the United States, ALSAC has assumed full responsibility for all the hospital’s fundraising efforts, raising hundreds of millions annually through benefits and solicitation drives among Americans of all ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds. Today, ALSAC is the nation’s second largest health-care charity and is supported by the efforts of more than 1 million volunteers nationwide.

Through striking improvements in the care of pediatric leukemias and numerous forms of solid tumors, St. Jude – which now has a daily operating cost of nearly $1.3 million – has brought about improved health care for children all over the world.

From a promise of “Help me find my way in life, and I will build you a shrine” to the fulfillment of his dream, Danny Thomas lived to see his little hospital become an international beacon of hope for the catastrophically ill children of the world. The founder of St. Jude and ALSAC died on February 6, 1991, just two days after joining patients, parents and employees to celebrate the hospital’s 29th anniversary. He was laid to rest in a family crypt at the Danny Thomas/ALSAC Pavilion on the grounds of the hospital. On July 12, 2000, his wife, Rose Marie, passed away and now lies with her beloved husband in the hospital’s Memorial Garden. Today, their children, Marlo, Terre and Tony, carry on their parents’ work and remain a driving force in fulfilling their father’s mission. Danny Thomas is gone, but his dream lives on."

Again, the following is taken from the hospital's website. Memorable Moments chronicles some of the important milestones and achievements throughout its history, from 1957 when the St. Jude story began, to present day; click here.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Danny Thomas and St. Jude

The following is taken from the website of The National Shrine of St. Jude (Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.), where it was compiled from How St. Jude Came to Chicago by Jack KuensterClick here to read the original information.

"Perhaps the most nationally recognized devotee of Saint Jude during the last half of the 20th century was Danny Thomas, once a little known nightclub entertainer who soared to countrywide popularity as the star of the television show “Make Room for Daddy” from 1953 to 1964.

Thomas never hid his attachment to Saint Jude, and origins of that devotion date back to the spring of 1940 when Thomas first heard of Saint Jude from a stagehand in Detroit. The stagehand told him his wife had made a seemingly miraculous recovery from cancer, and that recovery, he insisted, came through his prayers to Saint Jude.

At the time, Thomas was struggling to make a go of it in show business. He had done some radio and nightclub work, having gone to Detroit from Toledo, Ohio, where he had grown up in a large family and had changed his name from Muzyad Amos Yakhoob to Amos Jacobs. He was averaging about $45 a week, and when his wife, Rose Marie, delivered the first of their three children, he knew he needed help. So, remembering the stagehand’s profession of faith, he began making short prayers to Saint Jude, asking for the saint’s intercession “to show me my way in life.” He prayed for strength to succeed in his profession and promised he would “do something big” in Jude’s name if he managed to gain a measure of economic security.
Before long he traveled to Chicago, where he landed a $50-a-week job doing radio commercials. Shortly thereafter, talent agent Leo Salkin booked him into the 5100 Club on the city’s north side for $75 a week. At that juncture, he again changed his name from Amos Jacobs to Danny Thomas. He soon became a nightclub sensation, earning $500 a week and drawing customers from all over the city to listen to his outrageously funny stories, which he told in different dialects while deftly skewering human vanity and stupidity. And, although he had his audience laughing uproariously, he never resorted to using vulgar language.
His lengthy night shows on Saturdays ran far into the morning hours, and when he was finished, he went to 6 a.m. Mass at St. Clement Church on his way home. It was at the church one day that he noticed a leaflet on a pew. He read the leaflet and learned about a solemn novena to Saint Jude that was then held four times every year at the National Shrine of St. Jude at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on the far southeast side of Chicago.

It was the first he knew that St. Jude’s home was in Chicago. In reading about the Shrine he realized, in the midst of his newly-found professional success, he had completely forgotten his earlier prayers and promises to Saint Jude. While renewing his devotion to the “forgotten apostle,” he planned on somehow showing the church appreciation for his prayers being answered.

Thomas’ life changed dramatically again a few weeks after that. His agent persuaded him to take his comedy routine to New York City, where he was booked into the Club Martinique. From that point on, he moved into the entertainment world’s big time. After USO tours in both Europe and the Pacific, Thomas was engaged to perform at New York’s Roxy Theater at $3,750 a week. He later performed in the most popular nightclubs from coast to coast, broke into movies, playing in “I’ll See You in My Dreams” and “The Jazz Singer” and finally, starting in 1953, he achieved his greatest fame through his starring role in the long-running television comedy series “Make Room for Daddy.”

Thomas’ “big gift” to St. Jude included devotion through the National Shrine of St. Jude and the Claretians in Chicago, and ultimately the world-famous St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

Thomas died in California of a heart attack at age 78 in 1991."

Friday, October 28, 2016

October 28th, Feast of St. Jude Thaddeus

Oh glorious apostle St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the name of the traitor who delivered thy beloved Master into the hands of His enemies has caused thee to be forgotten by many, but the Church honors and invokes thee universally as the patron of hopeless cases--of things despaired of. Pray for me who am so miserable; make use, I implore thee, of that particular privilege accorded thee of bringing visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need, that I may receive the consolations and succor of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations and sufferings, particularly (mention your request), and that I may bless God with thee and all the elect throughout eternity. I promise thee, O blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, and I will never cease to honor thee as my special and powerful patron, and to do all in my power to encourage devotion to thee. Amen

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Novena to St. Jude, Day 8

May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be adored, glorified, loved and preserved throughout the world, now and forever. Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for us. St. Jude, worker of miracles, pray for us.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Novena to St. Jude, Day 7

May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be adored, glorified, loved and preserved throughout the world, now and forever. Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for us. St. Jude, worker of miracles, pray for us.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Novena to St. Jude, Day 6

May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be adored, glorified, loved and preserved throughout the world, now and forever. Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for us. St. Jude, worker of miracles, pray for us.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Novena to St. Jude, Day 5

May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be adored, glorified, loved and preserved throughout the world, now and forever. Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for us. St. Jude, worker of miracles, pray for us.