Tuesday, December 1, 2009

SAINT ANDREW - Bringing our Brothers & Sisters to Christ

SAINT ANDREW - Bringing our Brothers & Sisters to Christ

Who was the first of the Apostles? Usually we think of Peter because he is at the top of the list, but the first in historical order was Saint Andrew. Andrew, along with another unnamed disciple of John the Baptist, was the first “vocation visitor” invited by Christ to come and see how He lived. He was a fisherman, like his brother Simon-Peter, who was the first person that he went to in order to get him “hooked” on Jesus as well (See Jn. 1:35-42).

Bringing people to Jesus was evidently Saint Andrew’s forte. At another key moment it was Saint Andrew who brought the young man with the 5 loaves and 2 fish to Jesus so that He could multiply them for the crowd (Jn 6:8-9).

Perhaps what is most notable about his efforts is his lack of notoriety. Saint Andrew seems content to fade into the background after he brings people to Christ. He doesn’t get to go with his brother and fellow fishermen, James and John, when they are with Jesus at the Transfiguration or Gethsemane. Maybe he was the responsible one whom Jesus could leave in charge while He was away.

Saint Andrew teaches us that the work of evangelization, being fishers of men, doesn’t call for a lot of recognition. John Henry Newman said that the true estimate of a person’s influence comes more from looking at their private life than their public life. Is anyone more influential than a mother or father upon the life of their children? Edward Leen, in his book on Progress in Mental Prayer reminds us that: We can never know if God shall realize His purpose in us through keeping us hidden or bringing us to light. The soul that seeks to be perfect must consent to be nothing, that is, to be held as nobody. It is wrong to seek to do remarkable things in God's service for the sake of attracting others to that service, (p. 116) As one member on a team of medical scientists said, “It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, as long as those who need it get the cure.”

Many great saints followed this path of hiddenness. For example, Saint Therese and Saint Benedict were not well known during their lifetimes. Saint Bernadette went into the hidden life of the cloister after the famous events took place at Lourdes, explaining that she was content to be like a broom in the hands of her Master, who could use her when needed and then put her back in the closet. She must have pondered the humble hiddenness of the Mother of God, such a central figure in salvation history about whom we really do not know many details.

It is enough to bring our brothers and sisters to Christ and let Him take over from there. It is encouraging that Saint Andrew’s success in evangelization began with his own family. This is not often the case, but he shows us that it is a worthwhile effort. In this case he won over the first pope. His manner of doing so was simply to share his experience of what he went and saw: “We have found the Messiah!” We might not be able to tell a family member how to live the faith, (that is, there is usually an independent spirit among family members in these matters) but we can at least be true to who we are and what God has done in our lives and share that experience with them. It is good to pray that the Lord would send a “fisherman” friend to them, who they might listen to more readily. If all else fails, I know of a woman who sewed a prayer cloth blessed by a priest into her husband’s clothing (unseen of course). Her husband, who had been away from the Church for 20 years, went back to church that Sunday and became a daily communicant!

Saint Andrew’s example also reminds us to be grateful for all of those people who brought us to Christ at crossroads of our lives and then faded into the background. We ask Saint Andrew to intercede for each of them, for our families, and for every person that Christ wants us to bring to Him.

Fr. Richard Roemer, CFR
St. Crispin Friary
Bronx, NY

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