Today is the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle. St. Andrew is the patron saint of several countries, notably Scotland and Russia – as well as patron of many other activities, including the Russian Navy. The brother of Simon Peter, he was called as an apostle and sent on mission after the Resurrection of Jesus. There are many reports and claims of his missionary endeavors that range from Kiev to Scotland and the reports of conversions are notable. And so the first reading is well chosen.
But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear without someone to preach?
And how can people preach unless they are sent?
As it is written,
How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news! (Romans 10:14-15)
Being born and raised in the south, there were lots of people with beautiful feet. It didn’t matter if you were at the Piggly-Wiggly, the five-and-dime, or the gas station. There was someone there ready to give witness because they were sent so that others could be called, hear, and believe. It’s the way it was.
In the Franciscan tradition, people are quite ready to quote St. Francis: preach the gospel at all times; use words if necessary. The problem is that Francis never said that. The attribution to Francis is bogus. Francis believed in proclaiming the Word. That’s why very early in the Order’s history he sent missionaries into the Baltic, among the Germanic people, as far afield as lands north of the Black Sea. Within a generation of Franics, the friars were in China. They were sent to give witness – certainly by their lives – but Francis is clear they are to preach “when the Spirit commands.” (Rule of 1221)
Recently I read a post from a priest who, as a seminarian, wrote to his later self to remind him about prayer. There were 15-20 admonitions, each one starting with (e.g.) “There is a person in despair, who is one prayer away from Hope.”
Out there in your life, there is a person who is one witness, one chat, one invitation away from being called, hearing and believing. It’s up to you. Preach the gospel at all times. Use words.
St. Andrew pray for us.
The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew by Caravaggio (1603–1606)