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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Head

Remember Your Roots

A blog for women seems an unlikely place to find a reflection for St. Andrew.

One of the fishermen called by Jesus to be fishers of men and the brother of St. Peter, St. Andrew is one of the apostles. While St. Andrew is mentioned in the Gospels, very little is known about his life two thousand years ago. We know that he was a close follower of Jesus, he was present at the Last Supper, and he preached about Jesus in what is now Greece and Turkey. St. Andrew’s most famous spoken line occurs in the Gospel of John, commenting that there is a boy with five barley loaves and two fish before the multiplication of loaves and fish for the crowd. St. Andrew was a martyr for our faith and was crucified on an x-shaped cross (now known as the St. Andrew cross) in Greece. St. Andrew is the patron saint of fishermen, Greece, Russia, and Scotland.

The St. Andrew cross has been incorporated into the Scottish flag - a white x on a blue background. The Irish have St. Patrick and the English have St. David - the Scots claim St. Andrew. Growing up in a family steeped in Scottish heritage, I'd like to pause today and think of the way women of my family, particularly the relatives with a connection to our Scottish heritage, have shaped my life.

My grandma’s parents came to Chicago from small towns outside of Glasgow. She was a teacher; her stories inspired my own career path and advocacy efforts. We grew up attending mass with my grandparents and assisting their hospitality ministry afterwards. My grandma was a witness in caring for others - talking to the other parishioners, remembering their names, and remembering their favorite donuts as well. She was honored to be my Confirmation sponsor in eighth grade. However her greatest lesson came not through a religion lesson, but through a high school English project.

Each year of high school, I was required to put together an end of year portfolio. Each year had specific parameters, but the general idea was to focus on revising specific essays and showing your growth as a writer. As my English teacher read through the directions during my freshman year, I came up with my genius plan to get an A: get my recently retired teacher grandma to help me out.

Shortly after I started working on my portfolio, my family was visiting my grandparents for Sunday dinner. After dinner, I was eager to clear the table of dishes and spread out my essays. I explained the goals of the portfolio and showed Grandma the rubric. She nodded along as I read through my essays, then simply said “Hmm” or “Is that so?” as she looked through the drafts. She was taking her time, and I finally said, “Well, what do you think? What should I do?”

She looked up, slightly startled, and gave a little laugh.

“Why does it matter what I think? It’s your paper. How do you think it should be revised?”

She had a twinkle in her eye and turned back to reading one of the essays. On the other side of the table, I was realizing that this plan wasn’t working out exactly as I thought.

St. Andrew didn’t set out to become a disciple of Jesus. Jesus appeared to St. Andrew and St. Peter, two brothers setting out their nets for the day to earn their daily wage. After the crucifixion and resurrection, the apostles were sent out into the world to proclaim what had happened. The apostles were given a task and had to live it out without the physical assistance of Jesus at their side. We are also called to live out our lives as Christian and Catholic people. We can read all of the books in the world, pray all of the devotions we know, but at the end of the day it is our own actions and words which portray our personal beliefs and a message of faith to the world.

How do we know that we are on the right track? I turn to another Scottish relative for that answer. My grandpa was very interested in genealogy, particularly the Clan Scott family tree on his mother’s side. Each clan in Scotland has a tartan (plaid), crest, and motto. The Clan Scott tartan is a bright red, stripped with black, gray, and yellow. The crest is a regal stag - considered a symbol of rebirth and renewal, a perfect fit for Catholic beliefs. The motto drives the point home: Amo - Love. It is easy to get bogged down in the details of everyday life. St. Andrew’s feast day on November 30th feels forgotten in the hectic days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, smushed alongside the early days of Advent, passed over in favor of other events. However as long as we proclaim the Gospel through our actions, remembering the love of Jesus, we will keep Him at the forefront of everything.

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