The Catholic Church is probably the oldest continuous and hierarchically organized institution in the world, with nearly two thousand years of history. However, it’s important to remember that the Church is not – and has never been – some sort of abstract entity made up of theology, rules, and structures. It is the Body of Christ, made up of people who are united across many generations and many lands. All those who have been baptized in Christ are one big family, whether on earth, in Heaven, or in Purgatory.
This is one reason why I like to include the optional lists of saints in the first Eucharistic Prayer. It reminds us that, especially when we pray, we join our voices to those of all the members of the Church, living and dead. The saints in those lists represent all kinds of people. In the first list, the twelve apostles are named, and then five popes and seven other martyrs, including both clergy and lay people. The second list includes 15 more men and women martyrs of all ages and states of life, from young maidens to popes and aged widows. The lists can seem long, but they speak to us of how all people are called to reach holiness through God’s grace.
Today we are honoring Sts Simon and Jude, who are among the twelve Apostles. Jude is also the author of one of the letters contained in the New Testament, and was possibly a nephew of St. Joseph, Our Lord’s foster father. Tradition holds that Simon and Jude traveled east from Palestine into what was then Persia to bring the Gospel to the nations, and they both died as martyrs. Jude is also perhaps best known to us as the patron saint of hopeless causes.
Today as we hear the names of the saints during Mass, let us remember that they were men and women like ourselves who loved God and others generously throughout their lives. We are called to be the saints of today, who give the Church life and make Jesus present in today’s world. May Sts. Simon and Jude intercede for us that we may follow their example on earth, and someday join them in heaven.
For more information on the saints in the Eucharistic Prayer I, aka the Roman Canon, see this helpful article. It doesn’t mention St. Joseph, because he was added to the canon after the article was written.