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Wednesday, First Week of Advent (St. Andrew)

November 30, 2011

Blessed St. Andrew’s Day!

Today marks the beginning of the St. Andrew’s Christmas “novena”
(to use the word “novena” very loosely–this is a lot more than nine days!).
The following prayer is prayed 15 times per day from the feast of St. Andrew until Christmas:

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
in which the Son of God
was born of the most pure Virgin Mary,
at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold.
In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God!
to hear my prayer and grant my desires,
through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ,
and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.
+MICHAEL AUGUSTINE, Archbishop of New York
New York, February 6, 1897

I made a set of 15 violet beads
–strung like sacrifice beads but with a simple square knot at the end–
to help us keep track.
I found that praying 15 times a day for days on end for the same intention
has a way of purifying one’s perspective.
It feels awfully silly (or selfish, as the case may be) to pester God that often for something
if what I’m praying for really isn’t all that eternally important!

Lord God,
you called Saint Andrew, your apostle,
to preach the gospel and to guide your Church.
We humbly pray
that he may always plead for us in your presence.
[We make our prayer] through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever. Amen.
(Opening Prayer from today’s Mass)

Romans 10: 9-18 (God sends preachers so that we can hear the Good News,
stake our lives on it and be saved)
Psalm 19: 2-3, 4-5 “Their message goes out through all the earth”
+ Matthew 4:18-22 (Jesus calls the first disciples to be “fishers of men”)

St. Andrew has been called “the great introducer.”
He took to heart the message we hear in this morning’s first reading;
that people need a life-changing faith in Jesus in order to be saved,
but they won’t get it unless someone tells them about it and invites them to meet Him.
And those who preach the Gospel must be sent.

Jesus called Andrew to be a “fisher of men,”
to present the truths of the Gospel in all their challenge and appeal,
to introduce people to Jesus.

It all started at the Jordan,
when St. John the Baptist came preaching a baptism of repentance
in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.
Although he was from the far northern coast of Bethsaida in Galilee (John 1:44),
Andrew got word of John’s preaching and headed down to the Jordan to become his follower. Then, when the Baptist pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God
(the Messiah for Whom they’d been preparing),
Andrew and another of the Baptist’s disciples followed Him.
When Jesus noticed them following Him, He turned and asked, “What are you looking for?”
They said to Him, “Rabbi, where do You stay?” Jesus replied, “Come and see.”
After spending the rest of the day with Jesus,
Andrew was so impressed that he sought out his brother to tell him,
“We have found the Messiah!,” and brought him to Jesus, Who looked at him and said,
“You are Simon, son of John; your name shall be Cephas (Peter) (John 1:25-42).
Andrew was also the one who introduced the boy with the five loaves and two fishes
at the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:8-9),
and when some Greeks told Philip they wanted to see Jesus,
Philip went to Andrew, who brought the whole party to Jesus (John 12:20-22).

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, Andrew, now a bishop
(the twelve apostles, with Matthias taking the place of Judas Iscariot–see Acts 1:15-26–
were the first twelve bishops of the early Church),
continued his ministry of bringing people to Jesus, of being a “fisher of men”.
Different writers give differing accounts of where he preached and how far he traveled,
but he seems to have ministered in the region of modern-day Greece & Turkey,
possibly even into the south-western part of Russia.

Andrew was crucified in Patrae in Achaia (now Greece) on November 30, 60 A.D.,
during the reign of Nero.
He is commonly thought to have been crucified on an X-shaped cross,
which is why this type of cross is now referred to as St. Andrew’s cross
(Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907 edition;
He welcomed his cross with joy:

When the apostle [Andrew] saw his cross at a distance,
he is said to have cried out;

Hail precious cross, that has been consecrated by the body of my Lord,
and adorned with His limbs as with rich jewels. –
I come to you exulting and glad; receive me with joy into your arms.
O good cross, that has received beauty from our Lord’s limbs:
I have ardently loved you, long have I desired and sought you:
now you are found by me, and are made ready for my longing soul:
receive me into your arms, taking me from among men,
and present me to my master;
that He who redeemed me on you, may receive me by you.

Upon these ardent breathings St. Bernard writes,

When he saw at a distance the cross prepared for him,
his countenance did not change, nor did his blood freeze in his veins,
nor did his hair stand on end, nor did he lose his voice,
nor did his body tremble, nor was his soul troubled,
nor did his senses fail him, as it happens to human frailty:
but the flame of charity which burned in his breast,
cast forth sparks through his mouth.

The saint goes on, showing that fervor and love will make penance and labor sweet,
seeing it can sweeten death itself, and, by the unction [anointing] of the Holy Ghost,
make even its torments desirable.
-Butler’s Lives of the Saints

The Church has chosen today as St. Andrew’s feast
because this was the day of his homecoming to Heaven.
For him, today was the end of time.
This was the day of his final meeting with Jesus,
for which he had longed, for which he was prepared,
and for which he had prepared many others.

We, too, are called to be “fishers of men,” “great introducers”,
sent by Jesus to the ends of the earth (see Acts 1:8)
–like right here, right now!–
to proclaim the good news that there are answers to life’s biggest questions,
that there is a God Who would rather die than live without us,
and that He wants very much for us to meet Him.
No, we don’t have St. Andrew’s power (as bishop) to ordain priests, consecrate the Eucharist,
celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation or forgive sins,
but we can tell our story–as Andrew did to Peter.
We can introduce family and foreigners alike
(as Andrew did for his brother and for the foreign Greeks)
to Jesus as He meets us in prayer and in the sacraments.
If that brings us persecution (as Jesus predicted it would, see John 15:18-21),
then we can imitate St. Andrew in welcoming the cross as our ticket home.

Good St. Andrew, please pray that we may gain a share in your courage and zeal
in spreading the Good News.

Image attribution, Evelyn Simak [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons, found at

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