In May 2009, our youngest son was born at 26 weeks gestation (14 weeks premature). Scary? You bet is was. When he was born, not only were we surprised, but we were absolutely scared out of our minds. We did not really know anyone who’d been through a premature birth. We did not know if he would live or die. We did not know what kind of challenges he would be facing down the road, if he survived. Within a couple of hours, he was rushed to the nearest big hospital to receive much-needed care from the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU). We said goodbye temporarily, and then the real adventure began.
Over the next several weeks, we were on a roller-coaster ride that no one in their right minds would ever want to get on. We wanted off this thing! To be closer to our son, we were allowed to stay at the nearby Ronald McDonald House with our oldest son staying with us. We were told at least twice within a month of him being hospitalized to make funeral arrangements because the outcome looked so bleak. Our son was not going to make it . . . We were at the end of our rope. We had been praying. We were already a believing family, but this ordeal was really testing our limits. Our child’s lungs were struggling at a molecular level and the medical professionals had exhausted their knowledge and technology.
Being born so prematurely, our son’s lungs needed machines to help him breathe. Unfortunately, these were just machines. Not sentient mechanical entities that could tell if they were hurting a human infant born before his time. Due to the fragile nature of his little body, our little boy’s lungs were torn. Minute tears appeared in his lung’s air sacs, making it impossible for him to trap air for his lungs to consume. In order for the tears to heal, his more damaged lung needed to collapse while the other side of his lungs did the work. We needed an impossible miracle. We were without hope.
My husband got the wild and crazy idea to ask for the intercession of Saint Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes. I was not on board. I didn’t understand why it was necessary to ask for his help. My thought was that if God wouldn’t hear our cries for help, why would he listen to Saint Jude? However, it isn’t like he was praying to a pagan god, right? Or was it? I was conflicted, but I wanted our son to get better. I wanted him to survive. So, my husband asked for the powerful intercession of St. Jude. I did not know what to expect or if I should expect anything. We were physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.
The next day, we anxiously awaited the report from our son’s many specialists. It is a nerve-wracking experience to wait on the news when you do not know how many more days your child has on Earth with you. The news from our doctor was not what we expected. The healthier side had collapsed! Saint Jude had interceded for us and an impossible prayer had been answered! We were somewhat relieved but knew that our son still had a very long road ahead of him.
In the midst of dealing with his very slow progress, I had to ask myself a question: how was I to reconcile what I believed with what I had just witnessed? As a Protestant, there was no such thing as “praying to the saints” or “asking for the saints’ intercession.” It did not exist because it was seen as idolatry. But how could something that bad be so good in our lives? Is it even worse? How did I, a person raised in Pentecostal Protestantism, deal with the fact that my son’s life might have just been saved because my husband did a very Catholic thing by asking for the very powerful intercession of Saint Jude? I did not know how to answer that question at the time. Neither did some of our Protestant friends and family whom we told this story to. We generally got blank stares because, like me at the time, they could not reconcile Catholic teaching and tradition with an answer to prayer. I praised the Lord for this small miracle, but in the back of my mind I was asking: Lord, why did You listen to the intercession of Saint Jude? That question followed me around for many years.
Since those frightful months, Saint Jude has held a special place in our hearts. Because of his very powerful intervention, our premature son survived his trials in the NICU. When other people look at him, they would not know that anything is wrong. He has had several developmental delays but has a spirited personality that no one can match. He loves dinosaurs, lizards, reptiles of all kinds and amphibians. Does he struggle every day? Yes, of course, he does. He doesn’t learn on the same level as most children his age. He has speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and requires movement therapy. The technical term in the field is “pre-Autistic” because he has many of the markers of a child with Autism without the classification. However, I would deal with all of that again if it meant he would survive every single time.
God is so good. God is so gracious. God is so merciful. Even though I still do not understand why things have happened in my son’s life the way that they have, I would not trade his “disabilities” for a better version of him. Because of him, we were shown Saint Jude and how the intercession of the saints is so efficacious. Because of my son, we have learned about the patience of the saints and what it looks like when God acts on their behalf. However God answers our prayers, it is important that we be thankful, even if our answer does not look the way we think it should.
If you are in a similarly desperate situation or know someone who is, offer up these prayers:
Most holy Apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honors and invokes you universally, as the patron of difficult cases, of things, almost despaired of, Pray for me, I am so helpless and alone. Intercede with God for me that He bring visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and help of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly –
(make your request here)
– and that I may praise God with you and all the saints forever. I promise, O Blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor granted me by God and to always honor you as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you. Amen.
May the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus be adored and loved in all the tabernacles until the end of time. Amen.
May the most Sacred Heart of Jesus be praised and glorified now and forever. Amen
St. Jude pray for us and hear our prayers. Amen.
Blessed be the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Blessed be the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Blessed be St. Jude Thaddeus, in all the world and for all Eternity.
(say this prayer, followed by the Our Father and theHail Mary)
- Originally from southeast Georgia, today Jennifer Kinsey is a devoted Catholic wife and a mother of two boys and resides in western New York. She and her family belong to a parish in the Diocese of Buffalo, where they were received into the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil 2018. Jennifer and her husband converted from the Pentecostal and United Methodist faith communities respectively.