Pop Quiz! Who was the first Apostle to meet Jesus and follow him?
The answer is the saint for today, St. Andrew the Apostle.
Not a lot is known about St. Andrew apart from what we find in Scripture and in stories after his death. Those stories include the one that he was crucified by being tied to a cross in the shape of an X, which became the sign of St. Andrew in paintings. Russian’s claim St. Andrew as a patron because he is said to have preached there. Then there’s St. Andrew’s Scotland, which I’ve visited, and where relics of St. Andrew are said to have been brought way back in the 8th century.
As for Sacred Scripture, in St. John’s Gospel we’re told that the day after Jesus’ baptism by St. John the Baptist, two of his disciples heard the Baptist say “Behold, the lamb of God” as Jesus walked by. (Jn. 1:36) So, those two pursued Jesus in order to learn from him. St. John then tells us that the name of one of those two was “Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter.” (v. 29) And after spending the day with Jesus, the first thing Andrew did was to go find his brother Peter and say “We have found the Messiah.” (v. 41) This is why he's refered to as the first to follow Jesus.
Almost every other reference to Andrew in the Gospels is in St. John’s Gospel. This makes sense if, as many believe, the other disciple that day was St. John himself. You see, Andrew and John were both younger brothers, and they were both religious young men, followers of St. John the Baptist. They were best friends in the faith (a new kind of BFF).
So, of all the stories about St. Andrew that were written after his death, and which are probably not true, the one that I do believe is this one from the Muratorian Fragment, which dates back to the early 200’s.
When St. John was encouraged to write his Gospel by many local Christians, John thought to invite those apostles still alive and several trusted figures to come to him and to fast for three days in order to discern whether or not to write a new Gospel. After those three days they would share what they received in prayer, and John would make his decision. However, it was St. Andrew who, after a few hours of fasting and praying broke the silence, stood up, and told his old friend that God wanted John to write it. And that, as they say, was that.
The story reminds me of the importance of spiritual friends in our lives, the kind of friends who go with us on pilgrimage or to a religious event or who will read a spiritual book with us. They’re the kind of friend with whom we can have those deep conversations about life that are not just complaining and are not just about sports or kids but which are rooted in the desire to be closer to God. The kind of friend, too, who will tell us to stop stalling and just do what God has been telling us to do.
We need those kinds of friends, the kind of friend that St. Andrew and St. John were to each other. And maybe with a spiritual friend of yours you could participate in the St. Andrew Novena. It’s a beautiful meditation and preparation for the coming of the Christ child as you pray for an intention with your spiritual friend:
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, [here mention your request] through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.
Recite the above prayer 15 times a day from November 30 to December 24