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 piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.
That is the Saint Andrew Novena prayer, people say it 15 times every day from 30th November, which is Saint Andrew’s day until Christmas.
I see. Well, obviously my next question is...but why?
Well, as Saints go, Saint Andrew was kind of a big deal. We’ve covered some martyr’s and saints through the centuries in this series, but Saint Andy is old school. Andrew the Apostle, was the brother of Saint Peter (Simon Peter) and also known as the First-Called. He was an apostle of Jesus according to the New Testament and was present at the final supper. Both himself and his brother were fishermen, Jesus remarked that he would make them “fishers of men” in reference to their becoming his disciples. Indeed, he preached far and wide, he preached along the Black Sea, and the Dnieper river as far as Kiev. From there he travelled to Novgorod which is why he became the patron Saint of Ukraine, Romania and Russia.
Did he get about a bit then?
He certainly had an impact, which as we know, in those times usually meant martyrdom. In fact, it was only John of the apostles who died of natural causes. Saint Andrew, on the other hand, was bound to a crux decussata or X-shaped cross at his own request, as he considered himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus. You can see this cross assumed on flags and various other symbols around the world.
What does this travelling fisherman represent?
Well, he’s patron of the following places: Scotland, Barbados, Georgia, Ukraine, Russia, Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Patras, Burgundy, San Andres (Tenerife), Diocese of Paranaque, Candaba, Pampanga, Telhado, Sarzana, Pienza, Amalfi, Luqa (Malta) and Prussia.
As well as representing fishermen, fishmongers and rope-makers, textile workers, singers, miners, pregnant women, butchers, farm workers, protection against sore throats, protection against convulsions, protection against fever, protection against whooping cough
But the Brits best know him through the Scots, St Andrew’s is a town in Scotland that also has one of the best and most famous golf courses in the world, featured in the Ryder cup.
Several relics of St Andrew were brought to the town that is now known as St Andrew’s. In 832AD an army of Picts and Scots were led into battle by Óengus II against the Angles led by Æthelstan. They were heavily outnumbered and so, while in prayer Óengus vowed that should they be victorious he would appoint Saint Andrew as the Saint of Scotland. A cloud in the shape of a cross representing the crux decussata is said to have appeared in the sky before the battle, giving the Scots a boost in courage. Hence, the Scottish flag is a white cross against a sky blue background.
Saint Andrews Day is an official bank holiday in Scotland, and is usually feted across the country with a grand celebration of Scottish culture, featuring traditional recitations, cuisine and, of course, a rollicking ceilidh (a traditional Scottish or Irish social gathering). Different regions have specific events and traditions. For instance, in East Lothian, the annual Saltire Festival focuses on Scotland’s rich heritage in the arts and sport, with a 10K night run, golfing tournament, crafting workshops, and traditional music performances.
Meanwhile, Glasgow hosts a spectacular torchlight procession through the city’s West End. Towards the north, the Oban Winter Festival is another annual community affair that celebrates Scottish culture on Saint Andrew’s feast day, with a whisky festival, haggis tastings, and performers singing traditional Gaelic and Scots tunes.