St. Jude Relic Tour: The Apostle of the Impossible Touches Scores of Catholic Hearts in California (2024)

An estimated 23,000 faithful venerated the relic at five different churches, reaching an additional 15.5 million by way of streaming, in the Diocese of Orange alone.

Long ago, the arm of St. Jude, beloved patron saint of impossible causes, was removed from a tomb shared with the remains of the apostle Simon below the main altar of St. Joseph in the left transept of St. Peter’s Basilica. The arm was placed in a wooden reliquary carved in the shape of an arm imparting a blessing. It remained in Italy for centuries — until now.

This first-class relic of St. Jude has been on pilgrimage throughout the United States for nearly one year — currently touring California, where an immense outpour of devotion has greeted the relic.

Treasures of the Church, a Detroit-based nonprofit ministry, received authorization from Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar general for the Diocese of Rome, to bring the relic to the United States. The tour is being overseen by Treasures of the Church director Companion of the Cross Father Carlos Martins, a custos reliquarium (ecclesiastically appointed curate of relics).

The St. Jude relic first arrived in Illinois in September 2023, before journeying to churches in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and, finally, California, where it has traveled the state for nearly two months.

Father Al Baca, episcopal vicar of ecumenical and interreligious affairs for the Diocese of Orange, California, and chief organizer of the relic’s stops in Orange County, estimated 23,000 faithful venerated the relic at five different churches, reaching an additional 15.5 million by way of streaming.

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Father Baca also said the relic served as an ecumenical effort with Orthodox churches. “While we can’t celebrate Mass together, we could venerate the relic of St. Jude together,” he said. The Armenian Apostolic Church in the city of Santa Ana hosted the relic for an afternoon.

There is a tradition in the Armenian Apostolic Church that St. Jude and St. Bartholomew evangelized and were martyred in Armenia. In fact, Louis Boettiger’s Armenian Legends and Festivals (1920) chronicles the tale of King Abgar of Edessa, whose kingdom reached modern-day Armenia, and his encounter with the image of Christ “not made by human hands,” delivered to him, the story says, by St. Jude.

“Tradition held St. Jude, who was a cousin of Jesus, also looked like him,” Father Baca explained. “After the Ascension, St. Jude remained a powerful physical reminder of the Lord when he had been on earth. He was both a spiritual and physical bond to Christ.”

St. Jude Relic Tour: The Apostle of the Impossible Touches Scores of Catholic Hearts in California (2)

Kathleen Conway assisted Father Baca during the relic’s tour in the Diocese of Orange, visiting the five parishes with the relic and witnessing thousands wait hours to venerate the relic. “Veneration continued until after midnight at two parishes,” Conway said. “No one was turned away.”

St. Jude Relic Tour: The Apostle of the Impossible Touches Scores of Catholic Hearts in California (3)
St. Jude Relic Tour: The Apostle of the Impossible Touches Scores of Catholic Hearts in California (4)

Following its veneration in the Diocese of Orange, the relic transferred to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, where 5,000 people lined up outside St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church in Westlake Village, northwest of downtown L.A.

In the northern part of the state, the relic was met with equal enthusiasm. Father Felix Lim, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Novato within the Archdiocese of San Francisco, reported, “Pilgrims were young and old, of all races and cultures, and they came from Novato, San Rafael, Santa Rosa, Sacramento, Eureka — and even Alaska! [These pilgrims] shared heartfelt stories about the personal items they brought to touch the relic case, such as a picture of a beloved daughter, a cross from a grandmother, a medal from a father, and a statute of Mary from Italy.”

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Novato resident Lorraine Dollwet arrived at St. Anthony of Padua Church, but her physical issues prevented her from waiting in line. “I came home and watched the live feed for the rest of the day and evening,” she said. “My deceased husband Nick’s middle name is Jude, and we have had a lot of faith and love for him. I still do.”

St. Jude’s intercessions throughout Church history reverberate with people, Father Baca said, “so it was not very difficult to get people excited about the relic.”

And yet, organizers did not expect the extent of the reaction the relic sparked. “We were all so wonderfully impressed with how the people came forward to spend time with the relic of St. Jude,” Father Baca said.

For Father Baca, such a positive reception was another indicator of a greater revival unfolding across the country. “Something is happening,” he said, noting how the St. Jude relic followed newfound ardor among the faithful in adoration and devotion to the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph and St. Michael. “Our place as priests is to recognize when heaven is speaking, and the relic of St. Jude was one of those moments.”

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“I pray that this event will bring about a breath of fervor and renewed will in all our parishioners to follow the missionary zeal of the apostles,” he added.

The Holy See has issued a plenary indulgence available to all pilgrims who venerate the relics of St. Jude.

“Relics are tangible; you can touch them,” Father Baca said. “You could touch the arm bones of St. Jude, the arm he would have used to bless and consecrate.” He paused in wonder, then said: “There is a lot of faith in our people.”

“When I touched the glass case housing the relic, my thought was that I am in the actual presence of St. Jude — physically and spiritually,” Conway of the Diocese of Orange said. “The visit of the St. Jude relic was a gift from God to strengthen my faith and increase my hope that miracles can and do happen through the intercession of St. Jude Thaddeus.”

St. Jude Relic Tour: The Apostle of the Impossible Touches Scores of Catholic Hearts in California (2024)
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