Happy Feast of St. Andrew! As this feast is celebrated in both the Western and Eastern arms of the Church, it is one of my favorites. Intuitively, there seems to be something significant in beginning Advent with the feast of a martyr and an apostle. It is as if we are subtly reminded that this season is meant to be one of penance and evangelization.
Scripture and Sacred Tradition tell us much about St. Andrew. He and St. Peter were the sons of Jonas, and they lived in Bethsaida, which was a town in Galilee on the shores of the Genesareth. As we examine St. Andrew’s life, there are lessons that may translate into a more personally fruitful Advent.
St. Andrew did not journey out to the desert to see St. John the Baptist out of curiosity, nor was he merely following the crowd. No, St. Andrew was ready to leave behind all that mattered and become a true disciple of St. John the Baptist. In penance and prayer this Advent, we too can follow the voice of one crying out, “Prepare the way of Lord!”
Later, when St. John the Baptist identifies Jesus by stating: “Behold the Lamb of God,” St. Andrew is again prepared to forsake his spiritual security in order to embrace a deeper relationship with the Messiah. For St. Andrew to follow Jesus Christ from Capernaum to Jerusalem, he must leave John the Baptist to his mission in the desert. This Advent, we too can grow beyond the comfort and complacency of our spiritual security, by reaching for a closer union with Jesus. Like St. Andrew, Jesus asks us to risk that which matters most in our lives. Similarly, Jesus asks us to place it all- our fears, dreams and lives- in His hands with confidence.
Once St. Andrew finds Jesus, he introduces Him to his brother Peter. This Advent, we can bring Jesus to those around us. Like St. Peter, they too may feel the call to forsake everything and follow Him. Evangelization doesn’t necessarily mean shouting from the roof-tops (not recommended in the slippery, frozen tundra of Wisconsin). Rather, just by quietly living Christmas as Christians, we bear witness, and bid others to do the same. We are called to invite- He will do the rest.
St. Andrew accepted Jesus’ command to: “Go forth to all Nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit… (MT 28:19).” He traveled beyond his comfort zone preaching the Good News along the Baltic, into what are now Russia, Romania and the Ukraine. St. Andrew was later martyred in Patras, Greece, where he was tied to a cross. Tradition holds that St. Andrew was crucified on an x-shaped cross out humility- not feeling worthy to die as Our Lord. This Advent, if we embrace our crosses with similar humility it can’t help but bear fruit.
One of my favorite things about this feast is the novena which begins today. This novena is a poignant reminder of what really matters during this Sacred Season. The repetition of this lovely verse provides a rhythm that gently flows from day to day- reinforcing the true meaning of Christmas. The rhythm is strong enough to offer an oasis for those of us seeking respite from the chaotic noise of the secular season.
It is piously believed that whoever recites the following prayer fifteen times a day from the Feast of St. Andrew to Christmas Eve will obtain their request.
The prayer is:
Hail and Blessed be the Hour and the 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 Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother.
+MICHAEL AUGUSTINE, Archbishop of New York
New York, February 6, 1897
One may choose to recite all fifteen prayers at once, or it can be or broken up and prayed throughout the day- perhaps with the meal prayer or the Angelus.
I have been praying this novena annually for thirteen years, and have never been disappointed. One Advent, I was reciting this prayer for the child I was carrying. It was a dangerous pregnancy for the baby and I- there was a real chance that both of our lives were in jeopardy. My beautiful, healthy baby girl was born (one month early) exactly ten days after the novena ended. A year later, I prayed this novena for my Dad and his conversion. He was officially received into the Catholic Church fourteen days after the novena ended, and died of cancer just sixteen days later. Each year I have prayed it, I have truly felt an abundance of grace. This novena is powerful!!! I invite you to join my family as we pray the Christmas Novena this year.
Ad Jesum per Mariam,