Saint Simon and Saint Jude are an odd couple; they are a strange pair of saints to observe together. They are not brothers, as some linked saints are. They are not martyrs who died on the same day. They are not saints whose names are linked together again and again in scripture. Instead, it seems that the only reason that they are observed together is that they are the two disciples about whom we know the least.
The only thing that the Gospels tell us about Simon is that he was one of the disciples and he was also called “the Zealot.” Jude is simply mentioned in passing in the description of the Last Supper, and he may (or may not) have written the Epistle to Jude in the Bible. In fact, the most widely known thing about Saint Jude is that he is the so-called “patron saint of lost causes,” though we’re not completely sure why that’s true either.
So what are we to do with these two seemingly leftover disciples? What do the Zealot and the Patron Saint of Lost Causes have to do with one another, and what do they have to do with us? Perhaps even more elusive, what do they have to do with the act of parenting, of growing Christians?
Who knows what the experts would say, but here’s what I see. Simon is a Zealot, one who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of his ideals. I don’t know about you, but my kids are totally zealots. They are fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their things. They are zealots for some ideal of a purely carbohydrate diet that flies in the face of nutritional wisdom. They are zealous about all things Harry Potter: the books, the games, the costumes, the stuffed animals, the headbands, the keychains. They are zealots for a form of fashion that skirts the edge of decency and uncompromising in the face of my reforms. Whatever their current commitment—to a book or a food or a character or a game or a song or an opinion—they are fanatical, uncompromising, and all-in.
Are you with me here, parents? Maybe your kid is a zealot for Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or Paw Patrol. Or maybe your kid is zealous for the Baby Shark song or the Frozen soundtrack or the Floss. I knew a kid who was a zealot for fans—he would survey the fans in your home when he entered, tell you the make and model, and let you know if yours weren’t up to snuff. Kids are basically just tiny zealots.
Now, zealots who are zealous about childish things can be amusing (and sometimes annoying). And zealots who are zealous about the wrong things are dangerous. But zealots who are zealots for the right things? They’re the ones who change the world, starting with themselves. They are the ones who hold tight to a truth that we can only dimly see. They are the ones who point us to what is real and true and holy.
Which, I think is why it is so important that the Zealot Saint Simon is partnered with Saint Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. The two of them were disciples, zealous for Jesus, willing to follow that particular lost cause to the cross and beyond. And their witness, when married together, has something to teach us about our experience of the faith, and the faith that we hope for our children. What if we, ourselves, were as zealous for Jesus as we are for our favorite brand of shoes or our newest binge-watch? And what if we formed our children to be zealots for lost causes instead of current trends?
Every once in a while I see this. I meet a kid who is so zealous in supporting animals that they ask for donations to the local shelter in lieu of birthday gifts. I hear from a young person who talks about serving at a homeless shelter with the same fervor that others reserve for going to a big sporting event. I hear one of my kids tell me what story they heard in Godly Play with the same excitement they relate the chapter of Harry Potter she just re-read for the 10th time.
I wonder, how can you, this week, help form the kids in your life as zealots for lost causes, as zealots for Jesus?
How can you direct their zealous energy in pursuit of the things that matter most?
If you have ideas, I’d love to hear them. Comment below and share what’s working in your home or in your church. Because I will be working on myself and my tiny zealots too.
[Image Credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]