First Tuesday: Advent Aspirations, November 30 — Vince and Andrew, running to daylight

Vince Lombardi, the legendary football coach, and St. Andrew the Apostle are two of my heroes. Not an odd pairing, at all.

Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers when I was young, is often remembered for saying, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”As sometimes happened, the quote is partial and easy to distort. The full phrase is: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing work striving for.”

Lombardi was a daily communicant, and no one ever knew because his fellow attendees at the earliest Green Bay Morning Mass possible honored his desire to keep that daily habit out of the public eye.

Vince also wrote one of the great sports autobiographies of all time, “Run to Daylight.”When my son Andrew played football in middle and high school years, he had a coach who pounded in the necessity of running each and every play as pre-planned. Andy, a practical lad, had a habit called “Run to Daylight.” If there were big burly opponents waiting for him in ‘the hole’ he would bounce to the outside.

After that coach chewed Andy out for getting 8 or 9 yards per carry rather than the 4 or so achievable with the planned plays, I spoke with him. A coach myself (of soccer) I asked why he would be angry with a player for improvising to improve production. The conversation was not illuminating, so I asked, “You a Vince Lombardi fan?”He said, “Of course, greatest NFL coach of all time.”I asked, “What’s the name of Coach Lombardi’s autobiography?” He glowered at me. Andy went on to things other than football, but we both continue to honor Lombardi.

As for St. Andrew, Scott P. Richert explains on the “Learn Religions” website that “a novena is normally a nine-day prayer, the term is sometimes used for any prayer that is repeated over a series of days. That is the case with one of the most beloved of all Advent devotions, the Saint Andrew Christmas Novena.”

He continues, “The Saint Andrew Christmas Novena is often called simply the ‘Christmas Novena‘ or the ‘Christmas Anticipation Prayer,‘ because it is prayed 15 times every day from the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle (November 30) until Christmas.” However, “it is not actually addressed to Saint Andrew but to God, Himself, asking Him to grant our request in honor of the birth of His Son at Christmas.”(

That prayer: “Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.”

A grand old word, “vouchsafe.” It means “to grant something, especially to someone who doesn’t deserve it on his own.” And, the context of “desires” is worth noting: “something one wants strongly; in this case, not a physical or gluttonous desire, but a spiritual one.”

St. Andrew is in a few verses in Scripture, including words from the Gospel of Matthew, commencing in chapter 4 at verse 18: “As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.

Down the shore, they ran across James and John, the sons of Thunder (Zebedee). The four walked toward the Light, and the rest is Biblical history.

Blessed Jacobus de Voragine, was an archbishop of Genoa (Italy), who died late in the Thirteenth Century. I consider that “my” century because my first lengthy scholarly study (during my graduate school years in Stillwater) focused on the lives of parish priests in that era.

Jacobus drew from tradition to describe how Andrew died a martyr, only a few years after Jesus ascended to Heaven.Tradition says Andrew, like his Savior and many brethren, was killed for refusing to surrender his beliefs. In the pious narrative of Jacobus, Andrew embraced his fate — bound to a Cross, but in the shape of an X (the same manner in which Peter was killed).

Andrew prayed loudly to God, “It is time for You to entrust my body to the earth. You entrusted it to me, and I have borne it so long and watched over it and worked so hard, and how I wish to be discharged of this obedience.“He gave up his spirit, in the story, while affirming, “O most kind Father, I give back what you entrusted to me, thirsting as I am to come freely to you, the inexhaustible source of life.”

There are other stories, for circulation at other times. In these days, I affirm for myself the petition ascribed to Andrew: “Vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires.”Conflict is inevitable, but these days, folks seem to fight about darn near everything. I’d like to see less conflict in America and more conciliation. I would like to see more liberty and less coercion. I would like to see more affirmation of life and less degradation of it.

While running to daylight, I know there will be conflict. I pray for the wisdom of Solomon and seek the peace that surpasses all understanding. Going to say that Novena every day, until Christmas.Amen.