A Fisher of Men

In the Divine Master’s call to St. Andrew, lessons emerge that can serve to enrich the apostolate in every age.

Gospel for the Feast of St. Andrew

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. 19 He said to them, “Come after Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed Him. 21 He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed Him (Mt 4:18-22).

I – Tendential Counter-Revolution in the Nascent Church

The Gospel for the feast of St. Andrew highlights the apostolic vocation in all its glory: “Come after Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” But what exactly does it mean to be a “fisher of men”? Why did Our Lord use this image? Was it simply because the two brothers He was calling exercised this profession?

In God’s plans, everything is perfectly ordered. Thus, it is the highest reasons of wisdom that give meaning to lower realities, so that the art of fishing was inspired by God, in its most varied forms, to give a rough idea of what it means to have been chosen to evangelize, and not the other way around.

However, the symbolism of fishing opens up new horizons for those who, like the author of these lines, have been able to drink from a copious and crystalline source such as the teachings of Dr. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. In fact, the doctrines he explained, when properly applied, shed light on this feast day’s Gospel, demonstrating the apostolate as an art that must involve the whole man, without overlooking the most variable and delicate facets of the personality, such as the emotions, passions and senses.

A prophet called to fight against a universal and corrosive phenomenon, which he called the Revolution, Dr. Plinio was gifted with a particular discernment of spirits to understand the psychological process through which the forces of evil have advanced effectively and irresistibly over the last five centuries, promoting libertinism in customs and coining pernicious doctrines and slogans.

The power of tendencies, for good and evil

For Dr. Plinio, “the most powerful driving force of the Revolution lies in disordered tendencies.”1 These tendencies are the evil passions in a state of exacerbation, which “by their very nature struggle to be realized” and, “no longer conforming to a whole order of things that is contrary to them, they begin to modify mentalities, ways of being, artistic expressions and customs, without immediately touching directly – at least habitually – on ideas.”2

Once the field has been prepared, “from these profound strata, the crisis passes to the ideological terrain. […] Thus, inspired by the disorder of deep-seated tendencies, new doctrines burst forth.”3

If the disordered passions are so important that they are the driving force behind the Revolution, Dr. Plinio envisaged a counter-revolutionary tendency to counter them, for there are upright inclinations that play a role in the line of good similar to that played by disordered passions for evil.

He explains this himself when he talks about ambiences, which, to the extent that they favour good habits, can put up admirable barriers to the Revolution. According to Dr. Plinio, “God established mysterious and admirable relationships between certain forms, colours, sounds, perfumes and flavours on the one hand, and certain states of soul on the other” and, as a result, “it is clear that by these means mentalities can be profoundly influenced.”4

Finally, he concludes that it is necessary “to use, on the level of the tendencies, all the legitimate and appropriate resources to combat this same Revolution in the tendencies.5

Man is an intelligent being who learns everything through his external and internal senses, and is strongly conditioned by them. For this reason, the task of evangelization must take into account the factors that influence the reception of the message of salvation in a favourable or negative way.

Something similar can be applied to the trade of fishing. Fishing is not just about casting nets. It requires knowledge of the sea, the weather conditions, the routes followed by the schools of fish and countless other elements; in short, it involves a complex and highly developed technique. In this way, by comparing the apostles to fishermen, Our Lord, the source of all wisdom, hints with divine subtlety at the role of tendencies in the supernatural work of expanding the Church to the four corners of the earth.

II – The First One Called

St. Andrew is little known in our time, although in the golden age of medieval Christendom he was greatly esteemed, to the point where his name was the battle cry of the first crusade, in which Jerusalem was reconquered. The few references to him in the Holy Scriptures, along with the account of his life, passion and death written around the 4th century, allow us to trace his moral profile as that of an extremely kind, generous and brave soul. His candid and generous nature makes this Apostle, venerated in the East as the first to give himself completely and follow Our Lord, a figure who shines in the firmament of the Church with special appeal.

“The Calling of St. Peter and St. Andrew” by Arcangelo di Cola – Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht (Netherlands)

The Gospel of this feast narrates with sublime simplicity the vocation of St. Andrew and St. Peter, who with admirable promptness abandoned everything to accompany the Saviour definitively.

St. Luke, for his part, provides precious details about this significant episode (cf. Lk 5:1-11). Surrounded by the crowd on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Our Lord endeavoured to distance himself somewhat, so as to better address the multitude. To do so, he used the boat of the two brothers, who, spellbound, witnessed the divine wisdom that poured from His lips.

Then came the first miraculous catch. The nets, which had remained empty the night before, were filled to the point of bursting at Jesus’ word.

The miracle produced a profound astonishment in the good tendencies of those present, which culminated in the disciples renouncing everything in order to follow the Master. The prophecy of Isaiah, quoted by St. Matthew in the previous verses, was really beginning to be fulfilled: “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light” (Mt 4:16)!

The magnitude of the apostolic vocation

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.

When the Evangelist says that Our Lord saw the two brothers, we must understand that He did so not only with His corporeal eyes, but also with the omniscient vision of the Divine Word, which communicated to His mind an exact and dazzling notion of the magnitude of the vocation of those chosen ones.

On the other hand, St. Thomas Aquinas6 interprets the fact that two brothers were called in a mystical way. For him, it is an allusion to the virtue of charity, which consists of love for God and neighbour, and becomes firmer when supported by nature: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Ps 133:1).

Regarding the names of the two, the Angelic Doctor comments that they are appropriate for all those who dedicate themselves to preaching, because of their virtues:

“Simon is interpreted as obedient, Peter means the one who knows, and Andrew means strength. And the preacher must be submissive, in order to invite others to obedience […]; instructed, in order to teach others […]; strong, in order not to tremble in the face of threats.”7

Finally, notes the Aquinate, the fact that they were casting their nets foreshadows the mission of the future proclaimers of the Gospel, since their words, inflamed by the Holy Spirit, would draw men as if in divine meshes.

A new school founded on conviviality

19 He said to them, “Come after Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

The school of the Holy Gospel is supremely sapiential and unlike contemporary centres of higher learning, even within the Catholic aegis.

St. Andrew – Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Thurles (Ireland)

Intellectual learning today is wrongly considered to be the primary factor in formation, and almost the only one required of students. For the Incarnate Word, true discipleship consists of interaction, being together and loving one another. In this mould, souls are transformed, thanks to the teachings assimilated in the warmth of the Divine Master’s holiness and goodness. From this spiritual closeness, a deeply-rooted friendship is born, which will effectively produce the effect of love, which is to transform the lover into the Beloved.

Following Jesus is therefore the main path to sanctification. Those who follow in the footsteps of the Lord end up assimilating His doctrine and His spirit, becoming for others a pure reflection of virtue. In this way, they become authentic fishers of men, capable of captivating a multitude of souls.

Apostolic promptness

20 At once they left their nets and followed Him.

The Apostles’ heedfulness in following the Master’s wishes shows the ardour of their enthusiasm and the perfection of their obedience. In fact, the promptitude with which they left everything to serve Jesus, their detachment from earthly goods and the fact that they followed Him shows clearly how intense the virtue of charity was in their hearts at that moment.

In this sense, St. Andrew and St. Peter are models for all the priests of the New Covenant who would follow them through the centuries. Their spirit is extremely well described by St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort in the Fiery Prayer:

“Priests who are free with the freedom that comes from You, detached from everything, without father, mother, brothers, sisters or relatives and friends as the world and the flesh understand them, without worldly possessions to encumber or distract them, and devoid of all self-interest. […] Men who are free but still in bondage to Your love and Your will; men after Your own heart who, without taint or impediment of self-love, will carry out Your will to the full and, like David of old, lay low all Your enemies, with the Cross for their staff and the Rosary for their sling […].

Men as free as the clouds that sail high above the earth, filled with the dew of Heaven, and moving, without let or hindrance, according to the inspiration of the Spirit. They are included among those whom the prophet had in mind when he asked: What men are these who move like clouds in the sky (Is 60:8), wherever the Spirit leads them (Ez 1:12)? […] Men always available, always ready to obey You when those in authority speak. Always with the words of Samuel on their lips: praesto sum, here I am (1 Sm 3:16); always ready to be on the move and to suffer with You and for You, just as the Apostles were: let us go and die along with Him (Jn 11:16).”8

A sign of divine predilection

21a He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.

After Simon and Andrew, two other brothers were called – with such predilection! – by the Divine Master. These are the “sons of thunder”, who will play an important role in the newly founded Church, in communion with Peter.

St. Andrew – Church dedicated to the Apostle in Bayonne (France)

Both will become fishers of men, proclaiming the Good News of salvation in the most varied corners of the earth. St. James will be the first to testify with his own blood to the truth of the Divine Word, and St. John, the Virgin Apostle, will enjoy intimacy with the Redeemer and will bequeath us the fourth Gospel, of inestimable theological and historical wealth.

It is significant that two pairs of brothers were the first called by Our Lord. According to St. Thomas,9 this signifies the fullness of charity – two times two – which is achieved in the New Covenant.

Leave all, to receive much more!

21b They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.

The Evangelist specifies that that they were both in the boat with their father, mending the nets. Those who will be fishers of men will have to exchange the family boat for the glorious barque of the Holy Church; Zebedee, their earthly progenitor, for the Father in Heaven; and, finally, the fishing nets for the meshes of the Faith, to which they will attract men through the brilliance of good doctrine.

The call of these Apostles is therefore an elevation of the ordinary realities in which they lived. And so it is with every vocation: it is an invitation to give up everything in order to receive much more!

The power of the calling

21c He called them…

“O Lord, Thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived; Thou art stronger than I, and Thou hast prevailed” (Jer 20:7), exclaimed Jeremiah. If the prophetic call of the Old Testament was clothed in such force, what will not be the impetus of the vocation in the New Covenant?

“He called them” – how simple these three words are, but how irresistible their vigour! Let us ask God, through Mary Most Holy, that those summoned by the voice of His Son in our day may allow themselves to be completely conquered.

22 and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed Him.

In a certain sense, the sons of Zebedee have greater merit, for they abandoned not only their trade, but also their father. To this day, some people are uncomfortable at the mention of this detail. In a world with almost no family and no order, cutting blood ties in order to enter the family of God continues to be seen as a violence. And men who are no longer scandalized by moral disorder rend their garments, like new Pharisees, when a young person decides to give his whole life to the Catholic cause, leaving home and his comforts to follow the Divine Master.

If this path of radicalism did not exist, the Holy Gospel’s demand for a love that puts nothing before Christ would never be perfectly fulfilled: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Mt 10:34-37).

III – The Splendour of a Pillar of the Church

St. Andrew shows himself to be an Apostle with a discreet luminosity, from which shine the virtues typical of the first followers of Jesus, the future pillars of the Universal Church: readiness, self-sacrifice and love carried through to the last consequences.

“St. Andrew raises a cross on the mountains of Kiev”, by Nikolay Lomtev

However, his character is one that stands out from all others for his fraternal zeal. It was he who brought the future first Pope into the presence of Jesus, announcing to him beforehand: “We have found the Messiah” (Jn 1:41). And after spending time with the Divine Master in His dwelling (cf. Jn 1:39) and finally leaving behind earthly pursuits and even his own family to follow Him, his charity only grew, making him a tireless evangelizer of undoubted sincerity and honesty.

Good is of itself diffusive, as sound philosophy teaches. The figure of St. Andrew fully confirms this and encourages us to imitate him, seeking the sanctification of our neighbour through the courageous proclamation of the truth, accompanied by an ardent, intense and tireless charity. Charity which, in his case, was adorned with extraordinary miracles, which constituted a tendential action of immense proportions, predisposing hearts to the action of the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray to the great Apostle to grant the Church magnanimous souls, strong and overflowing with faith like his, authentic warriors for God and Mary, ready to do anything for their glory. 



1 CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, Plinio. Revolução e Contra-Revolução [Revolution and Counter-Revolution]. 5.ed. São Paulo: Retornarei: 2002, p.44.

2 Idem, p.41.

3 Idem, ibidem.

4 Idem, p.85.

5 Idem, p.193.

6 Cf. ST. THOMAS AQUINAS. Lectura super Matthæum, c.4, lect.2.

7 Idem, ibidem.

8 ST. LOUIS-MARIE GRIGNION DE MONTFORT. Prayer for Missionaries, n.7-10. In: God Alone. Bay Shore, NY: Montfort Publications, 1987, p. 403.

9 Cf. ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, op. cit, c.4, lect.2.



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