The Inside Agenda Blog

St. Jude: Why Queen’s Park Staffers Should Know Who He Was

by Mark Brosens Monday September 17, 2012

I’m a journalist. I receive press releases. It’s the way the world works. Generally, I skim them in the subway, skeptical that an Agenda program will emerge from yet another mass email (for instance, I can’t picture Steve talking about back-to-school fashion tips for your kids – an actual suggestion that once appeared in my inbox).

However, I do pay attention to the Queen’s Park press releases – they are more relevant to the programs I produce and the topics I'm interested in. 

This morning I received a press release informing me that Ontario Minister of Education Laurel Broten would visit St. Jude’s Catholic School in Toronto to speak about the progress made by the Liberal government on the education file.  

The first thing I thought was: in the middle of a labour conflict with two of the province’s largest teachers’ unions (which have arguably defeated previous Ontario governments), why would Broten trumpet her government’s education record at a school named after the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes?

If I were an opposition MPP at the Ontario Legislature, I'd be having some fun with this in question period. For instance, a MPP could take the common Roman Catholic prayer to St. Jude, mix in some references to the Kitchener — Waterloo by-election results and be ready to go:

Oh glorious apostle St. Jude … the Church honours and invokes thee universally as the patron of hopeless cases – of things despaired of. Pray for me who am so miserable; make use, I implore thee, of that particular privilege accorded thee of bringing visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need, that I may receive the consolations and succor of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations and sufferings …

To be fair, there seems to be a Christian patron saint for pretty much everything. However, I believe St. Jude is one of the most well-known saints in North America and given the circumstances of this media event, this is kind of comical. 

I don’t write this blog post to make fun of Laurel Broten or the Ontario government or to suggest this government is out of step with religion (after all, Broten’s children attend Catholic school). However, this is a good example of the interesting place we’ve reached in North America. It seems that some secular people are losing touch with religious roots of the Western tradition. They have difficulties recognizing the religious influences in the world around them. 

In 2010, James Ron, then a professor at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, appeared on The Agenda to discuss how Canadians’ religious ignorance is affecting our international relations.

Of course, this raises the question: what should a person know? If North America reaches a secular tipping point, does St. Jude become trivial? Is it important for secular people to have some base knowledge of religion?  

Credit: Jude Chapel