It’s time to tell the story of the Saint Andrew’s cross.
Saint Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland, and St. Andrew’s Day is celebrated by Scots around the world on the 30th November. The flag of Scotland is the Cross of St. Andrew, and this is widely displayed as a symbol of national identity. The “Order of Saint Andrew” or the “Most Ancient Order of the Thistle” is an order of Knighthood which is restricted to the King or Queen and sixteen others. It was established by James VII of Scotland in 1687.
Very little is really known about St. Andrew himself. He was thought to have been a fisherman in Galilee, along with his elder brother Simon Peter (Saint Peter), and both of them became apostles of Jesus Christ. St. Andrew is said to have been responsible for spreading the tenets of the Christian religion though Asia Minor and Greece. Tradition suggests that St. Andrew was put to death by the Romans in Patras, Southern Greece by being crucified cross in the shape of an ‘X’. The diagonal shape of this cross is said to be the basis for the Cross of St. Andrew which appears on the Scottish Flag.
Many years ago my mom tipped me off that my father had admired a cross and chain he had seen in the bookstore of Diocesan House on East Avenue in Rochester, the headquarters of the Rochester Episcopal Diocese and not far from our present home on Ericsson Street. Pop visited the bookstore when he was serving on the Standing Committee (sort of like the Board of Directors for the Diocese) under the leadership of The Rt. Rev. Robert R. Spears, Jr. in the 1970s. I acted on my mother’s tip and purchased the cross, which was in the style of Saint Andrew’s, and I gave the silver cross and chain to my father as a Christmas gift. Pop was thrilled, and started wearing the cross full-time immediately. This all happened over 25 years ago, and my father had rarely if ever removed the cross since then. In fact you can see the cross in the photo below, which was the one used for Pop’s obituary and was taken a few years ago.
After Pop was rushed via ambulance to the emergency room at St. James Mercy Hospital in Hornell and was there on a BiPAP ventilator, the attending nurse, who was merely following hospital protocol, started the motions to remove the cross from his neck. However, Pop had other ideas and steadfastly refused to surrender it, shaking his head vehemently from side-to-side indicating that he wasn’t going to give it up without a fight. The nurse acquiesced, as many other nurses did that followed her during the period of his hospitalization, and the cross stayed on him.
When Pop was in the ICU at Highland Hospital I would always straighten the cross on his neck and chest, untangling it from the knot of monitor wires and various types of tubes for medication and sustenance, and the connections for his ventilator. Finally one afternoon, just prior to him getting a tracheotomy, the staff had to adjust his intubation tube and the cross was in the way, so they snipped the continuous chain with surgical shears. When my mother and I went back in to visit him, I spotted the cross and chain on the table in his ICU room. We quickly grabbed the cross for safekeeping so it wouldn’t be lost or misplaced in the in the hospital.
The weekend before Pop’s funeral, we went to visit Mom in Hornell to plan the specifics of the service and interment. While there, my mother gave me the cross and chain and said she wanted me to have them. Later that week just before Pop’s funeral, Suzanne and I went to Krikorian & Co. Jewelers in Rochester where three weeks prior we had purchased a ring for our daughter Kiera’s High School graduation. I showed the cross and chain to Harry Krikorian, a very friendly and talented Master Jeweler which I have been a customer of for some time now, and explained the circumstances. Harry quickly swept the cross and chain away and disappeared into the back room. Amazingly, he returned in less than five minutes with the cross in hand gleaming like new, and the chain fully repaired. I asked him how much I owed him, and he just smiled and said, “No charge.” I put the chain and cross over my neck as we left the store and haven’t taken it off since, wearing it silently, but proudly, under my shirt and tie at the funeral. I intend to continue to wear it always.