On regular days, this part of the district of San Miguel in Manila stands in guarded silence, as human and steel sentinels have been assigned here to protect the district’s most important structure, as well as its most important occupant.
Thursdays here though are a different story, as these sentinels greet a somewhat greater crowd of people from all walks of life. They are Catholics and devotees who make their way every Thursday as a sign of their devotion to their patron, St. Jude Thaddeus.
Traditionally known as one of Jesus Christ’s 12 apostles, St. Jude (or Judas in some writings) Thaddeus is said to be a relative of Jesus and wrote the New Testament’s Epistle of St. Jude. Not much else is known though as he is somewhat forgotten because his name is shared by the more (in)famous Judas, the one named Iscariot who eventually betrayed Christ.
But it’s not at all a bad thing, as St. Jude still gets recognition from the Catholic Church as the patron saint for those who are in hopeless and desperate situations. It is said he was given this honor since he espoused the important of perseverance and faith in hard times. Another theory was that since his name is associated with other Judas, (Iscariot) devotion to him was not encouraged by early Christians except in times of desperation. (in other words, St. Jude served as the Catholic’s fire extinguisher)
Devotion to St. Jude is somewhat a recent “phenomenon” which became more popular beginning in the 1800’s in Europe and eventually finding its way here in the Philippines about a hundred years later. And in this part of San Miguel in the City of Manila lies the spirtual center of this devotion. Here in this church known to many as the St. Jude Shrine.
It is interesting to note that this church was originally constructed not specifically as a shrine for St. Jude. Rather, it was first envisioned as a church specifically catering to the needs of the Filipino-Chinese Catholics who were living in the district. (surprising fact if you only think of Binondo as the only place where the Filipino-Chinese community is situated) In fact, when it was inaugurated back in 1954 it was first known as the Espiritu Santo (Holy Spirit) Chinese Parish.
Eventually the parish was dedicated to St. Jude Thaddeus at the suggestion of the superior of the order administering the parish. The weekly (Thursday) novena to St. Jude began in 1959 and has been growing ever since. Meanwhile, a bigger church was constructed and was finished in 1960, where it still stands today, just 1-2 blocks away from Malacañang Palace. (incidentally, another church, St. Michael The Archangel, is also located a few blocks away from Malacañang on the other end) The basic architecture of the church has remained the same, save for the renovation that has been done especially on the church interior for the past 10 years or so.
Having become an Archdiocesan Shrine in 1994, St. Jude Shrine has become a popular place of devotion for Catholics in the midst of an urban landscape oft described by many as “devoid of spirituality.” For a long while, the church has been gunning to become a National Shrine, (just like the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran) a goal that was finally realized on October 28, 2010, when the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines officially bestowed the church the title of national shrine, giving the church an official name “National Shrine of St. Jude Thaddaeus.”
These days, St. Jude Shrine stands quietly behind the sentinels, a living testament to the rich and colorful landscape of the city.
©The Urban Roamer