Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Bishop Gainer Blesses an Icon of Hope in Coal Township

Our Lady of Hope Parish in Coal Township opened its doors to its faithful and the members of surrounding parishes in late October to seek one particular saint’s intercession for lost causes.

A solemn novena to St. Jude Thaddeus, an apostle and the patron saint of hope and hopeless causes, drew the faithful to Our Lady’s each evening from October 19-27, where they joined in prayer, Scripture readings, hymns and the veneration of a relic of the apostle.

On Wednesday evening, October 25, Bishop Ronald Gainer celebrated Holy Mass as part of the novena, during which he blessed a new icon of St. Jude Thaddeus, which graces the sanctuary of the church.

The icon was “written,” or painted, by an iconographer from Greece, who has painted several icons for the pastor of Our Lady’s, Father Nicholas Spano, OFM Conv.

Symbols on the icon of St. Jude include a flame of fire above his head, depicting his presence at the birth of the Church on Pentecost; a medallion of Christ on his chest; and a walking stick, indicative of his being sent forth to spread the Good News and of his martyrdom of being beaten to death.

It is believed that St. Jude was martyred in Beirut, Lebanon, in around 65 AD, by a club or ax. His association with lost causes likely stems from an account that the ill and dying ruler Abgar V of Edessa had requested a visit from Jesus; after Jesus’ Ascension, Jude visited the ruler, and when the apostle laid his hands on him, he was instantly healed.

In his homily, Bishop Gainer acknowledged that the Gospels reveal little about the apostles, despite their significance in spreading the teachings of Christ. “We do know that St. Bridget of Sweden and St. Bernard both had private revelations of St. Jude in their prayers, and they were told that he was indeed the patron of hopeless cases,” the bishop said.

“When there seems to be no hope, when there are very difficult causes we’re beseeching heaven to respond, St. Jude is the one we turn to for his powerful intercession,” he told the congregation.

Reflecting on the Gospel for the Mass, which reveals the names of the 12 men Jesus chose as his apostles, Bishop Gainer pointed out that none of them were of any influence or importance at the time. “They were ordinary people and a very diverse group,” he said. “Our Lord chooses a diverse team that is now going to be one community under Jesus. That’s a real image of a parish family and of the Church – everyone just gathered together in the presence of Jesus to be His Body.”

“As we prepare for the blessing of this icon of St. Jude, let us ask his intercession that we too will continue always to be disciples and learners, growing closer in greater community to Him and to one another in the Church, and that we’ll respect the diversity of the community and all of its variations the Lord has gathered to be His Mystical Body,” he said.

At the conclusion of the Mass, dozens of parishioners came forward to venerate the icon of St. Jude, held in a reliquary that had been placed before the icon during the liturgy. Kissing it and pressing their hands to it, they brought their intentions for the intercession of the patron of hopeless causes.

Father Spano told The Catholic Witness that many parishioners at Our Lady’s have a devotion to St. Jude, and therefore the parish wanted to incorporate some imagery of him.

“To have an image of him in the church that resonates with people is important for us to have,” he said.

“We’re also bringing this icon into a part of the world and a part of the Diocese that could use hope. It is a place that experiences an awful lot of illness, poverty, unemployment and drug addiction,” Father Spano said. “The people here deal with a lot of hopelessness, so to have an intercessor in that arena is exceptionally welcome. For the people in this parish, dedicated to Our Lady of Hope, it should be a beacon and a light for everyone.”

(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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