St Andrew – patron saint of Scotland. What do we know about him?
Saint Andrew is mentioned in the Bible several times as he and his brother Simon Peter were called by Jesus, in Galilee, to leave their fishing nets and “become fishers of men” Mt 5:10, Mk 1:16, Jn 1:41 They were the first two disciples, or special helpers, chosen by Jesus.
Andrew became one of Jesus’ twelve apostles. Apostle means one who is sent with a message. It was Andrew who brought Jesus’ attention to the boy with 5 loaves and 2 fishes, which Jesus then blessed and shared with 5,000 people. Jn 6:1-15
After Jesus’ death, Andrew went to Greece and preached the word of God to the Greek people for the first time. He was murdered (70 AD) in Patras Greece and was crucified by his enemies. Tradition has it that he was crucified on an X -shaped cross. (This is the white cross on the saltire flag).
A “Relic” is a special object or memento. They are used to focus prayers for special intentions. Some relics of Saint Andrew are found in Rome, Turkey, Russia and Edinburgh.
Tales and legends about Saint Andrew abound. One story states that St Regulus was carrying the relics (some bones) of St Andrew and was shipwrecked off the coast of Fife. He buried the bones there and in 1158 the cathedral was built on this site. It became very important and its ruins can still be seen today at Saint Andrews.
Another story relates that Abbot Acca in the 8th century brought some of St Andrew’s relics from Rome and presented them in a reliquary (casket) to the Scottish King Angus MacFergus. The RC Cathedral of St Mary in Edinburgh now houses this reliquary. King Angus believed the relics would help him be a better king and help him defeat his enemies.
It is said that in 735 AD, on the eve of the Battle of Athelstaneford near Haddington, King Angus fell asleep and dreamed that St Andrew spoke to him and promised him glorious victory in the battle. He shared this with his officers and soldiers who then felt energised and brave. Just before the battle a huge white cross appeared in the blue sky which frightened the English and they lost the battle. Since that time the saltire has been a symbol for the Scottish people. King Angus gave 10% of his wealth to the church and many churches dedicated to St Andrew were built.
Saint Andrews’ feast day is 30th November. He became official patron saint of Scotland in 1320 AD when the Declaration of Arbroath was signed by all the Scottish nobles. He is also the patron saint of Greece, Romania, Barbados and Russia.