MEXICO CITY (AP) — For the faithful, he is the saint of the hopeless, patron of lost causes, the deliverer of the impossible. Each month at a chapel near the heart of Mexico City, San Judas Tadeo's status as a performer of miracles draws believers from among the most desperate corners of society.
Bearing statues of the green-cloaked saint, some even dressed in his image, old and young alike gather on the 28th of every month — a remembrance of his Oct. 28 feast day — to stream through the San Hipolito Church in an unending procession of requests for intercession and appreciation of miracles received.
Ramon Perez Oseguera carried a 4-foot-tall statue of the bearded saint, known as St. Jude Thaddeus in English, as a gesture of his devotion. When he first visited the chapel to seek financial help, he said, he had only 50 pesos in his pocket but somehow found 250 pesos when he returned home.
Juan Maldonado bore red and white roses to thank the saint for helping him find work just as he was about to lose his home.
Expecting parents ask for blessings for their unborn children. Relatives of the sick ask that their loved ones be cured. Once desperate believers thank him for ending their addiction to drugs.
The saint has attracted a large following among the pierced and tattooed young people in the urban core, who gather at a nearby park to drink and dance to the syncopated rhythm of reggaeton music. Some clench their fists to inhale solvents, a cheap way to get high.
Monica Jessica, a slim, young woman in a white San Judas T-shirt and carrying an image of the martyr with child-like features, says the saint has saved her from darkness.
"San Judas Tadeo helped me improve my health and happiness," she said. "I prayed to him and found the strength to stop cutting myself."
Lucero Lima said she and her partner, Julio Apaseo, have been devoted to the saint of lost causes for 20 years. The woman bears on her right cheek a tattoo of the saint in child-like form under the words "San Juditas,"
Outside the church, faithful cram together in a line snaking around the building. Vendors sell icons, religious medallions, costumes, key chains and candles. Those arriving to give thanks for miracles hand out "mandas," tokens of appreciation such as flowers or treats, to anyone near.
Reina Castro fulfills her promise to San Judas every month by bringing cookies to give away at the procession.
The chaos gives way to calm inside the sanctuary, where the faithful pray and celebrate Mass. The woodsy scent of incense fills the air.
Diana Garcia has followed San Judas for five years. "Ever since my father's cancer became terminal," she said. "Although he died, San Judas has given me many miracles."