St. Andrew’s Day

Today is St. Andrew’s Day and thus, many faithful begin to pray the poetically beautiful St. Andrew Christmas Novena, that vividly transports one, through prayer, to the very moment of Christ’s birth. Just listen to the word-music of the opening lines: “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 the piercing cold…”

The first Sunday of Advent is always the first Sunday after St. Andrew’s Day. Isn’t it fitting that the first apostle, who led his brother St. Peter to follow Jesus, would lead the Church to the opening of Advent each year? In honor of St. Andrew, I give you a painting by Ottavio Vannini and a sculpture by François Duquesnoy; one work of art for each pivotal moment of his life.

The Vannini painting depicts St. Andrew being shown Christ by his teacher, St. John the Baptist, and it reminds that St. Andrew is a saint between saints. After all, upon being led to Christ by St. John the Baptist, he leads his brother Peter to the Messiah, and thus helps to make possible the founding of the Church upon the rock. St. Andrew, a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, left everything behind to become a fisher of men, then died a martyr upon a crux decussata, or X-shaped cross, as we are reminded with the Duquesnoy sculpture.

Read “The Fisherman” by William Butler Yeats, and this depiction of a “wise and simple” fisherman. There is a mystical resonance to the words when read aloud, and this description of an iconic fisherman is a fitting way to honor the man “wise” enough to become the first follower of Christ, and “simple” and humble enough to admirably help make possible the great honor his brother Peter received. But St. Andrew was the first one chosen and that honor could never be taken away from him. In the end, his was a life lit by the knowledge that he already had all he needed – just to be in Christ’s presence is everything, even if one is more salt than rock. And so, the first apostle leads us into Advent, inspired by his eagerness to follow. May we cast our own nets aside as whole-heartedly as he did, to journey over these four weeks to Bethlehem.

St. Andrew Christmas Novena

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 the piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God,
to hear my prayer and grant my desires through the merits
of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother.

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“By All Your Saints Still Striving” – At 0:54 is a mention of St. Andrew

By All Your Saints Still Striving - Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary Sacred Schola

San Andrés - François Duquesnoy
San Andrés – François Duquesnoy
Saint John showing Christ to Saint Andrew - Ottavio Vannini
Saint John showing Christ to Saint Andrew – Ottavio Vannini

The Fisherman

Although I can see him still—
The freckled man who goes
To a gray place on a hill
In gray Connemara clothes
At dawn to cast his flies—
It’s long since I began
To call up to the eyes
This wise and simple man.
All day I’d looked in the face
What I had hoped it would be
To write for my own race
And the reality:
The living men that I hate,
The dead man that I loved,
The craven man in his seat,
The insolent unreproved—
And no knave brought to book
Who has won a drunken cheer—
The witty man and his joke
Aimed at the commonest ear,
The clever man who cries
The catch cries of the clown,
The beating down of the wise
And great Art beaten down.

Maybe a twelve-month since
Suddenly I began,
In scorn of this audience,
Imagining a man,
And his sun-freckled face
And gray Connemara cloth,
Climbing up to a place
Where stone is dark with froth,
And the down turn of his wrist
When the flies drop in the stream—
A man who does not exist,
A man who is but a dream;
And cried, “Before I am old
I shall have written him one
Poem maybe as cold
And passionate as the dawn.”

— William Butler Yeats