November 30 is the feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, the brother of Saint Peter and, with Saint John the Evangelist, one of the first of Christ's disciples. Indeed, while his brother would eventually overshadow him as the first among the apostles, it was Saint Andrew who (according to the Gospel of John) introduced Saint Peter to Our Lord.
How appropriate it is, then, that the feast of Saint Andrew is used to calculate the start of Advent and, thus, the beginning of the liturgical year in the Roman Catholic Church. (For more details, see When Does Advent Start?) While Saint Andrew's feast can fall outside of Advent, it is traditionally listed as the first saint's day of the liturgical year, even when the First Sunday of Advent falls after it—an honor commensurate with Saint Andrew's place among the apostles.
Small wonder, too, that so many countries claim Saint Andrew as their patron saint. From Scotland to Rumania, from Russia to Cyprus, Saint Andrew is beloved by Christians East and West. He is in a special way revered as the patron saint of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, for having founded that see in the year 38. Every year, the Pope sends delegates to Constantinople for the feast of Saint Andrew (and, in November 2007, Pope Benedict himself went), just as the Ecumenical Patriarch sends representatives to Rome for the June 29 feast of Saints Peter and Paul (and, in 2008, went himself).
Thus, like his brother Saint Peter, Saint Andrew is in a way a symbol of the striving for Christian unity. And so, on his feast day (when we begin the traditional Advent practice of the Saint Andrew Christmas Novena), it is also appropriate to pray in a special way to obtain the reunion of the Christians of the East.
(A stained-glass window of Saint Andrew, Apostle, in Saint Peter's Cathedral, Rockford, Illinois. Photo © Scott P. Richert)