Every year since I joined the Confraternity of Saint Peter, I receive in the mail a beautiful prayer that, traditionally is said 15 times a day—every day—from the Feast of Saint Andrew until Christmas. This year I received two cards, so I thought I’d share the prayer with readers of Register. The prayer is simply:
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 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. Amen.
A note on the prayer card reads:
The Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle is Nov. 30. Traditionally, beginning that day, the following prayer is recited 15 times each day until Christmas.
This is an unusual prayer for several reasons: first, it is not a novena, nor any permutation of nine. Second, it doesn’t run exactly according to the Advent Season, but rather, each day of December (and the last of November). Third, though it starts on the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, no mention is made of that august saint—nor of any saint. If anything, the prayer is highly Christocentric with touches of Mariology—not even St. Joseph is mentioned. Finally, the provenance of the prayer is a mystery, though it’s been said to have gotten going in Ireland about a hundred years ago.
Saint Andrew’s Day is special to me and my family for a couple of reasons: first of all, it is my father’s birthday. Also, it is the day my paternal grandfather died in 2001. One doesn’t have to be a big believer in life coming full circle when a son’s birthday falls on his father’s birthday in Heaven.
But also, there is St. Andrew himself. Working backward from his birthday in Heaven as recounted in The Roman Martyrology:
At Patras in Achaia, the birthday of Saint Andre the Apostle, who preached The Gospel of Christ in Thrace and Scythia. He was arrested by Aegeas the proconsul, and first of all imprisoned, then severely scourged, and lastly hung upon a cross, whereon he survived for two days, teaching the people; and after beseeching the Lord that he would not permit him to be taken down from the Cross, he was enveloped in a great light from heaven and when this faded away he gave up the ghost.
From Holy Scripture itself we know that St. Andrew was the brother of the Prince of the Apostles, St. Peter (John 1:40), whom he brought to Jesus. Prior to this, Andrew was a disciple of St. John the Baptist (John 1:35). Alternately, according to the Synoptic Gospel tradition, St. Andrew was called by Jesus Himself while he was out fishing with St. Peter.
Regardless, St. Andrew is always named among the first four apostles in all the synoptic Gospels and Acts, viz: Matthew: Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. In Mark: Simon Peter, James, John and Andrew; Luke restores him to second place: Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John; but in his second tome, the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke drops Andrew to fourth place after Peter, John and James.
Perhaps more importantly that where St. Andrew’s name falls in terms of the list of the Apostles, he is undeniably a leader and one of the few Apostles mentioned specifically by name in Scripture, both times in conjunction with St. Philip. For example: St. Andrew pointes out the young boy with the loaves and the fishes before Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand (John 6: 8-10), and, importantly in John 12: 20-22 it is St. Andrew who tells Jesus that there were Greeks who wished to converse with Him.
We are on much less certain ground about what and where St. Andrew was after the Gospels. Though Scripture tells us he was the son of John and born in Bethsaida, his post-Scripture life is a tissue of tradition and legend: an unsubstantiated claim from Constantinople says he founded that patriarchate. On surer footing is Eusebius’s view that St. Andrew went to Scythia, though the historian Theodoret says it was Greece (a position in agreement with St. Gregory Nazianzen).
Per the above Martyrology he is said to have been Crucified on an “X” shaped cross (called in heraldic terms a “saltire”), though this specific item didn’t crop up until about the 10th century. The relics of his skull, removed by overzealous Crusaders in 1204, were sent back from Rome to Constantinople by Blessed Pope Paul VI
St. Andrew is the patron Saint of Russia and Scotland—two countries we are certain he did not visit—and a co-patron of Greece.
Naturally, St. Andrew is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass (along with all the other apostles in the Roman Canon/Eucharistic Prayer I), but also in a particularly curious spot in the Tridentine Mass: at the Libera Nos and the Fraction of the Host (right after the “Our Father”) we pray:
Deliver us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, from all evils, past, present, and to come; and by the intercession of the blessed and glorious Mary ever Virgin, Mother of God, together with Thy blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and Andrew, and all the saints.
Thus, Andrew is the last Saint named before we receive Christ’s body and blood.
Though this prayer is truncated to the exclusion of St. Andrew’s name in the Novus Ordo Mass, the new Daily Roman Missal does include a particularly beautiful “Prayer of Saint Andrew,” or as it is known in Latin, “O Bona Crux”:
O good Cross,
Made beautiful by the body of The Lord:
Long have I desired you,
Ardently have I loved you,
Unceasingly have I sought you out;
And now you are ready for my eager soul.
Receive me from among men and restore me to my Master,
So that He—who by means of You, in dying redeemed me—
May receive me. Amen.
Amen indeed. Saint Andrew, pray for us!