Why is there a flame above St. Jude’s head?

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St. Jude
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Question: Why is St. Jude pictured with a flame on his head? He wasn’t the only one at Pentecost and I haven’t seen anyone else depicted this way. 

R.F., Indiana

Answer: Almost all official answers to the meaning of the tongue of fire is the reference to his presence at Pentecost when the tongues of fire descended on the apostles and others. But, as you note, this was common to all of the apostles. Another possibility is that it refers to the words in his own letter wherein he calls for a patient outreach to those who waver in the faith and that we should be willing to snatch them out of the fire: “Keep yourselves in the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. On those who waver, have mercy; save others by snatching them out of the fire; on others have mercy with fear, abhorring even the outer garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 1:21-23). His reputation as the patron saint of difficult or desperate cases also comes from the same epistle wherein he encouraged the faithful to persevere in the faith despite the cruel and difficult circumstances they were in. His inspirational support of these early believers seems to be the source of his becoming the patron saint of desperate causes.

Msgr. Charles Pope

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. at blog.adw.org. Send questions to msgrpope@osv.com.