Relic of St. Jude visits archdiocese as part of nationwide tour

WAKEFIELD -- For the past eight weeks, Father Carlos Martins has traveled 15,000 miles across the U.S. with an armored van and the arm bones of St. Jude the Apostle, first cousin of Jesus and patron saint of impossible causes.

In that time, he and St. Jude "have become very close, intimate friends."

"We've seen a lot of America together," said Father Martins. "There really is a presence in the vehicle that is different. I'm driving with a guy, and I can sense that."

Father Martins is the director of Treasures of the Church, a Vatican ministry which organizes traveling exhibitions of sacred relics. For the first time in centuries, the relic of St. Jude has left Rome for the cross-country Apostle of the Impossible Tour. The tour will have visited 100 American cities when it concludes in May 2024.

"It's a blessing for sure," Father Martins said about road tripping with a relic.

The Apostle of the Impossible Tour stopped at St. Joseph Parish in Wakefield on Nov. 13. Hundreds of faithful packed the church for a Mass celebrated by Father Martins and the chance to venerate the relic. They waited in line, some for over an hour, to spend a moment of silence in the presence of St. Jude and whisper prayers.

The relic also visited St. William of York Church in Tewksbury on Nov. 14.

"Many, many times, this arm embraced the body of the Savior," Father Martins said in his homily. "This is how close we are to Jesus in this moment."

The faithful pressed their hands to the 400-pound bulletproof glass case protecting the reliquary, shaped like an arm delivering a blessing. They also pressed personal items to the glass, such as rosaries, prayer cards, medals, crucifixes, cell phones, car keys, credit cards, and pictures of loved ones.

Karen Marsh came from Newburyport to present the relic with a photograph of her older brother Larry, who is recovering from knee surgery.

"I'm still trembling," Marsh said after venerating the relic. "I'm in awe, I'm humbled, I'm grateful."

Larry Gilbert pressed a photograph of his late mother-in-law to the glass.

"She had a very strong connection and relationship to St. Jude," Larry Gilbert's wife Ann said. "She is one of the people we prayed for all the time."

"To be in the presence of the bones of St. Jude, who I always loved and respected, is just an honor," Larry Gilbert added.

The earthly remains of St. Jude are located beneath the left transept of St. Peter's Basilica. At an unknown point in time, the arm bones were separated from the rest of the remains and put on display in the Church of San Salvatore in Lauro. The church has been damaged by successive lightning strikes, and many of those who visited the relic donated to repair it.

"As the director (of Treasures of the Church), you need to tell the story," Father Martins said. "You need to speak the word of faith to people and then, in that sense, people are prepared to receive something. You heal people's faith, and the blessings come."

Undercover FBI agents and local law enforcement are present at every stop of the tour. Father Martins said that he "takes great pains" to provide the relic with state-of-the-art security. He has no assistants or employees. He alone is responsible for St. Jude's protection.

"Everything on a human level, I do," he said. "The rest is up to God."

It gets lonely on the open road, and Father Martins often talks to St. Jude. He can sense the different personality of each saint through his or her relics.

"It really is palpable," he said. "There have been many healings."

Barbara Kiggundu, who has had fallopian tube cancer since March, said that she felt a healing presence as she venerated the relic.

"My head was going back and forth," she said. "I was trying to lean against the glass, but I couldn't. There was a force pulling me back and forth. I'm overjoyed."

Nancy Gagin came to venerate the relic in hopes of ending over 30 years of chronic pain.

"It's not describable," she said. "Overwhelming. I couldn't believe I was in the presence of Jesus's cousin, a saint that could actually change my life."

Father Martins called relics "the guarantee of the truth of the words of Christ."

"Relics heal," he said. "They're not nothing. God does his ministry through them as they are members of his mystical body."