The feasts of the twelve apostles of Our Lord are scattered throughout the calendar, from May through December. And no matter how long the world shall last or how many great saints will appear in the future, I am sure that there will always be in the Church calendar those twelve men celebrated because they are the ones upon whom, as if on foundations stones, Our Lord built his Church.
Today we celebrate Saint Andrew, the brother of Saint Peter. Those two men were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee in the north of the Holy Land. It would seem that Jesus was partial to fishermen, even though he was not one himself, because of his twelve apostles, four of them — one third — were fishermen. Peter and Andrew, and then another pair of brothers: James and John.
It was actually Saint Andrew who first introduced his brother Peter to Our Lord. They had gone down to the southern part of the Holy Land, to the land of Judea where the capital city Jerusalem is located. They had probably gone down there to comply with the religious requirement that every Jewish man celebrate three great feasts at the Temple each year. While they were down there, they went down to the Jordan River Valley, either because they planned to return home along the river, or because they had heard of the fame of Saint John the Baptist who was operating and preaching down by the river near Jerusalem. In any case, Andrew heard John the Baptist pointing out Jesus of Nazareth as the promised savior of the world. So he and one of the other Galilean fishermen, John, followed Jesus and got to know him one afternoon and evening. The next day, Andrew said to his brother Peter, “We have found the Messiah.” That was a stupendous statement for Andrew to make. The people of Israel had been expecting and praying for the coming of the promised Messiah, or Savior, for some 1800 years. And now, Andrew believed that he had found him. So he brought Peter to meet Our Lord. Jesus looked fixedly at Peter, whose own personal name was Simon, and he said to him, no doubt in response to Andrew’s telling him, “Sir, this is my brother Simon, the son of John,” “you are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas.” Saint John the Evangelist, who recounts this episode for us, adds, “Cephas means rock.”
The Christian devotion to Saint Andrew has worked its way both into the religious life of our community and popular culture. In the world of faith, we celebrate his feast every November 30; we mention his name in the First Eucharistic Prayer at Mass whenever we use that form of the Mass. Many thousands of Christian men have borne the given name of Andrew, in honor of Saint Peter’s brother. And we know that the surname Anderson is one of the most common in the northern European countries, especially the Scandinavian and the English-speaking nations. Anderson means “son of Andrew.” And then, in the more popular world, we have the flag of Great Britain which bears the cross of Christ and the X-shaped cross of Saint Andrew, symbolic of England and Scotland, since Saint Andrew was long ago adopted as the patron saint of Scotland. And if you look in the dictionary, you’ll find the hyphenated word “merry-andrew” meaning a clown or a jester. That comes from the medieval custom of having a carnival before the beginning of Advent. And since the feast of Saint Andrew is November 30, it always falls within a few days of the beginning of Advent. Thus the carnival or fair was the Andrew carnival or fair, and the clowns, tumblers, jugglers, and jesters who performed at the fair for money were the “merry-andrews.”
Jesus chose those twelve men to be his apostles; he has chosen us to be his followers. Let us follow the example of Saint Andrew and the others in being faithful to Christ our Lord all our lives. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.