An Agnostic Prays the St. Jude Novena

In times of deepest depression and desperation, my thoughts and heart invariably turn to God. I’m not sure God appreciates the foul-weather friendship, but the habit is one that was formed for me many years ago by my very devout parents, and it’s not one that’s likely to go away any time soon.

As I set up my new apartment and attempt to find comfort in myself, my heart has still been broken, and I would do anything to mend it. Historically, I try to avoid emotional pain like the proverbial plague. I used to drink to mask those emotions; these days, there’s not much standing between me and the specter of loneliness that’s always beside me the minute I close my front door.

In times of pain, what can one do? Cry. Wait. Watch old movies. Make and drink tea. Cry some more. Try to sleep. Work, meet with friends, go through the motions. But the loneliness doesn’t go anywhere; it’s always right there, waiting for the latest distraction to wear off or come to a close.

St. Jude is the patron saint of desperate cases and helper of the hopeless. Feeling that my particular case was certainly edging toward desperate (getting out of bed is becoming the exception rather than the rule), but not being particularly religiously devout (for a rather complicated set of reasons), I did a bit of online research on St. Jude and how one might enlist a saint’s help in times of spiritual need.

Interestingly, the opus surrounding Saint Jude is as complicated as my own religious history. Some Catholics condemn novenas to Saint Jude as heretical and cultish. Still, scores of prayers and many novenas to St. Jude exist. I noted with chagrin the several versions of “A Mother’s Prayer to St. Jude,” as I know I’ve given my mother plenty of cause to pray over the years.

Here’s the funny thing about prayer: Even if your prayers aren’t answered, even if you don’t understand why or to whom you’re praying, it often helps. It’s a release; you’re admitting you don’t have much control and that you wish you could change the situation but can’t. You’re asking — God, the universe, St. Jude, whomever — for help, or at least for closure and clarity. Prayer is, if nothing else, a psychological exercise in acceptance. You throw your words at the ceiling, and whatever happens, happens. Then it’s up to you to accept and internalize the outcome.

So today, I began praying a novena to St. Jude. Nine prayers each day for nine days.

St. Jude, glorious apostle, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the name of the person (who betrayed our Lord) has caused you to be forgotten by many, but the true Church invokes you universally as the Patron of things despaired of. Pray for me, who is so miserable; pray for me, that I may finally receive the consolations and the succour of Heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly (my personal request went here), and that I may bless God with the Elect Throughout Eternity. Amen.

That gets followed by three Our Fathers, three Hail Marys, and three Glorias. During the first prayers, I cried like a baby the entire time. Admitting that I’m miserable and that I desperately long to be healed, saying those words out loud was like busting up a dam.

I don’t know if God’s there; if s/he’s there, I don’t know if s/he can hear me. If s/he can hear me, I have absolutely no idea whether or not my prayer will be answered. But I do know I’ve done as much as I can on my own, and I’d rather talk to the ceiling like a crazy person than lie in bed in dumb despair for one more day.

The final part of the novena is that you have to promise to publish your prayer and/or thanks (if the prayer is answered), and you have to encourage devotion to St. Jude. So here’s my (admittedly ambivalent) encouragement: If you’re hopeless, yourself, why not? In the worst case, nothing happens; in any other case, you’ll likely learn something about yourself along the way and perhaps be blessed by your own positive thinking.

And who knows: St. Jude, God, and the universe might even conspire to answer your prayer.

20 thoughts on “An Agnostic Prays the St. Jude Novena

  1. Jolie,

    unfortunately, the sadness that comes from losing a hope doesn’t usually goes away. With time, it’ll fade and mutate to a different way of feeling and looking at things, but will not disappear. So, please, it’s important that you don’t wait for the sadness to wane.

    Choose a best friend and go out with her/him. Research something that you remember you’re interested and write about it. Learn a new programming language. Participate in relief efforts for Japan. Start to learn dancing/singing/painting, whatever. Get your mind to think in other things.

    Granted, it’s much easier said than done, but it’s important. As you’re having a will strong enough to stay away from alcohol, I think you should get that done too.

    Also remember that sometimes it’s better to loose a hope that is doomed to failure early than later. It gives you more time to look out for other things and other people.

    You can keep the faith in God or not. It doesn’t matter. But keep the faith in yourself.

  2. Praying is evidence of hope. Good for you.

    Not knowing all that much about St. Jude, here are a couple of thoughts:

    “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show the great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” Jeremiah 33:3

    “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” Romans 15:13

    There’s promise of an answer, and peace in believing.

    I love you!

  3. Lord, please help our girl. She has come such a long way in the past few months, and You know how hard it is for her right now. Please give her peace in her mind, the ability to think and reason with clarity, and the ability to express herself through her work. Please give her rest for her body so that she can stay healthy and strong. Please give her peace and rest for her soul, an awareness that You love her and are near. Please give her hope and a clear vision of her beautiful future. Lord, please give her the companionship she needs in true friends who will look out for her best interests. Help her make a comfortable home in her new apartment and give her a rich, full life there. Thank you for protecting her and bringing her to a place of new beginnings; help her during this transition. In Your name I pray, Amen.

  4. I’ve been making my way through a rough patch for quite some time now. My old way of dealing with the emotions/pain/loneliness was to work longer and harder until I “forgot” about it. When it got to the point of working 10,12,14 hours before that happened, I knew I needed to find a better way.

    I’ve never been much for praying. I grew up Baptist/Christian/Catholic/Whatever my parents wanted to be that month. There are some dark memories that go along with that part of my past. When I was able to make the choice myself, I stopped going. I stopped reading the Bible for guidance. I stopped praying. It wasn’t the path for me. As I got older and started doing a lot of research into religion, I noticed they had a lot of the same key principles. Because of my past with religions focusing on God, I ventured toward Buddhism.

    After I graduated high school, I kind of let that go. I was doing well. I was confident, secure and ready to explore the new world ahead of me. And then bad thing after bad thing after bad thing started happening. I lost all confidence in myself. I became insecure. I was afraid to experience new things. After 3 years of my old habit of working to forget, I remembered how I used to feel. I went back to Buddhism for one thing in particular, meditation.

    In a way, it made me deal with what was bothering me. Externally, I could hide it when I needed to. Internally though, I was a mess. I needed to get my life back on track. I started meditating daily. Not for long, 15 to 30 minutes. Just taking the time to focus on myself and letting my mind wander to what was bothering me helped me lose the anxiety that went along with what was bothering me. It didn’t turn my life around but it helped me regain control so that I could work toward fixing things or moving on from things I couldn’t fix.

    I wish you the best of luck in regaining control. I’ll be sending positive energy your way.

  5. Hi again,

    I just wanted to say that I really feel bad about your situation; it’s a natural reaction to feel empathy for someone clearly in distress, as you seem to be.

    I’ve been horribly distressed before and have sought some solace from God. I’m not sure which God I’d be talking to, as I’m not particularly religious, but I do recognise the need to speak to ‘someone’ out there who can hear my true self, through my thoughts. That someone knows that I’m not actually a bad person, and that I’m trying to do the right thing even if it doesn’t seem like it to others.

    I’ve had suicidal thoughts and I’ve sought refuge from it through drink and things. Deep down I know that even thoughts about the ultimate act of self-destruction, which are not from my ‘true’ self but from the shadowy recesses of my sub-conscious, are actually an attempt to just stop the never ending train of thought of negativity.

    It’s very hard to be strong, particularly if you live alone. I would recommend more prayer (or meditation – this is what I call it) and to keep up with friends and family if you can.

    I read your comment on your other recent post and y’know I feel terrible for you, the one about the ‘jumping in front of a train’. I’m sure you realise that sometimes we’re not actually in control of what we’re thinking, and that our minds push thoughts on us that we don’t always want. These thoughts don’t come from *you* but from your brain, some kind of strange forced self-questioning and severe self-criticism. I like to think that I’m nearly at a stage of recognising these thoughts, and I have slowly made/created my own ways of dealing with them. This is achieved not through fighting it but through humour. If you can recognise the futility and (actually, when you think about it), the ridiculousness of some of the things that enter your head, then you can shrug it off with a smile. This is how my world is anyway.

    It’s a sign of true creative intelligence to be blighted by these thoughts, believe it or not (yes there is research to back this up – see below). And for sensitive and creative kids, the real world can seem such an abrasive and aggressive place. Sometimes also I’ve felt as though my potential has been scuppered not by myself but by the world.

    From what I’ve seen of your things, I would say this applies to you. I actually have a degree in psychology and I wrote my thesis on this very topic: the plight of the creative mind (think Van Gough, Mozart, Newton, Einstein). Often people with this condition are not recognised as needing special attention because they generally are clever enough to dupe everyone into thinking they are fine (this is at school, but can apply later). This ‘condition’ is called Intellectual giftedness. To me it seems that this is you. You do all sorts of cool stuff, and are rather talented at anything you put your mind to, be it music, design, programming, talking, writing, being an all round super-nice person 🙂 Plus to top it off you look pretty remarkable and so .. ‘haters gonna hate’. 😀 Actually this last point is an issue too, but no one really talks about it. It’s hard to be ‘like everyone else’ when everyone else wants to be like you.

    Please take care and make sure you relax to the max! Do some design work too, or music, it might help. 🙂

    Peace. Alex

    • Reading your words, I wish I could give you a big hug. =)

      It’s true that I’m both creative and sensitive — and I do realize that these “moods” come and go. I’m not submerging myself in the down times, nor do I get too carried away when I’m “up.” I think more prayer & meditation overall is great for grounding. I acknowledge that I’m grieving — and I acknowledge that sometimes my brain spits irrational thoughts from my subconscious to my conscious mind — but I also acknowledge that life goes on, and that I will feel differently presently.

      • Yep I realise that you’re going through a bad break-up and so you have all of that to deal with.

        I guess what I was getting at is the fact that you shouldn’t blame yourself. You’ve got loads to live for and for whatever reason, your ex decided to leave you.

        I couldn’t possibly say why to be honest.

        With me, I’ve taken a long time to grow up. But I’m hopeful now, and it’s strange that reading about your life before you met him, I guess I can relate to that. I feel embarrassed for being so open, I have a bad habit of wearing my heart on my sleeve so to speak. It was quite late when I wrote all that 🙂

        Seems to have cheered you up a bit so that’s good.

  6. Jolie, this is so true to you and probably my favorite blog post of yours. I love when the people I follow share a little bit of themselves with their readers. With all that being said I will tell you this. I am also agnostic for my own set of reasons (logic doesn’t allow me to believe to sum it up) and my parents are also devout. It is very difficult for me as well going through times like you are. I feel like a hypocrite if I pray but I have no idea how to heal my pain either and as I have not made the decision that you did I usually end up drinking. I wish I could hug you. I know how you feel. I don’t see this as a weakness. Personally if there is a god I think he would want us to question things.

    Trust me that in time things will work out. I have no idea what happened with you and your ex nor is it my business but you will find the right one sooner than later, you have a lot going for you. You are talented, intelligent and beautiful. If only there were more out there that could say that.

  7. This is beautiful. Reading about you’re prayer, so unpretentious, so humble, and genuine. I think it’s healthy to pray. The best people I know pray. There’s something sweet about carrying extra strength with you daily through faith in something. No one should be afraid of letting go, breaking down and just feel their true inner selves again.

  8. I am asking that everyone pray for me at this time. This past Tuesday April, 19, 2011 I had met with two investigators from my job and was bought theft criminal charges of something that I have done years ago. I am so so sorry for what I have done God in Heaven knows. From the time that I have committed this unexcusable act for the sake of survival for my children and I I have always been afraid of this day coming. I have never ever in my life been in trouble with the law for any crime. I have repented to God for this and will continue to repent. I am so fearful of going to jail I dont want to go at all I am the mother of a daughter and son and I care for my eighty year old mother I have looked at ways in doing restitution, going into programs to better myself and most important of all making a solid promise to God in giving up something that is not healthy in my life I am asking everyone to please pray with me and for me that God and St. Jude will not allow me going to jail as part of the sentencing/punishment for my crime. Also, please continue to pray for my family which is my daughter, son, mother, sisters and brothers and their families and my male friend/companion who is getting over bladder cancer he have been ill for the past few days and with it being the day before Easter he is very ill and in the name of Jesus and St. Jude again, I am asking everyone to agree with me these prayer requests

  9. One moment life is beset with storm clouds of devastating troubles. Another moment the silver lining of success fringes the clouds of failures. Muster courage; keep peaceful within, calmly and righteously active without, and destiny will cease to gamble with your life. By contionuous efforts at success, you will pass through the dark night of fate and troubles into the dawn of fulfillment, free from any clouds of calamity.

    Hasten to achieve this state of unshakable success.

  10. The upside of suffering is that it has the great capacity to help us return or become closer to God. I think it’s wonderful that despite your doubts about God you have chosen to turn to Him through the intercession of St. Jude. There’s nothing wrong with praying for confirmation that God is indeed real and working in your life. God will answer such a prayer, that’s for certain. Praying to Our Blessed Mother Mary for her intercession gives me great consolation in times of difficulty. She’s our heavenly mother and wants nothing more than to lead us ever closer her Son. There are countless novenas to Our Lady under her many given titles. The Hail Mary, and subsequently the Rosary are the most powerful prayers one can say. I also really like this particular prayer, the Memorare:

    Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
    Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.


    I’ll keep you in my prayers that you will find peace and a renewed faith during this Easter season.

  11. Just came across your blog. If you’ve never heard of or read anything by Anne Lamott, check her out (“Traveling Mercies”). The woman has a wonderful, broad viewpoint on God and faith. Frederick Buechner is another one to delve into (“Telling Secrets”). They’re two sages with a robust understanding of suffering who have a way of speaking into it that gives hope.

  12. Since you’re exploring religion / spirituality, you may want to check out this blog by a (former) atheist who ended converting to Christianity (and choosing Catholicism specifically):

    A little while back she gave a (45m) talk on the process of her conversion

    Some of her posts on the topic of prayer:

    She was one of the eleven stories in a recent book as well:

    Be well.

  13. I want to propagate the name of the most beautiful St. Jude. I have prayed to him many times, and swiftly, he has come to my aide over and over again. I will continue to praise him and spread his word.

    Thank you, St. Jude, for your immediate assistance and intercession- I am in complete awe over your rapid response and aide. I am humbled by your exactness and timeliness to meet my goals. You have never failed me during times of trial and tribulation, and words cannot articulate how grateful I am.


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