Thursday, July 26, 2012
Today is the memorial of St. Joachim (whose name means Yahweh prepares) and St. Anne (whose name in Hebrew means grace), the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the grandparents of Jesus. Tradition has it they first lived in Galilee and later settled in Jerusalem where the Blessed Virgin Mary was born and raised.
Joachim and Anne were a rich and pious couple who had been married for a long time, but found themselves childless. The couple prayed fervently for a child and promised to dedicate their first born to the service of God. An angel appeared to Anne and told her, "The Lord has looked upon thy tears; thou shalt conceive and give birth and the fruit of thy womb shall be blessed by all the world". Joachim also received the same message from the angel. Anne gave birth to a daughter whom she called Miriam (Mary), who was conceived without sin. As a child, Mary was taken to the temple and her parents suffered great sorrow but at the same time joy for fulfilling the vows they had made to the Lord.
We know very little about the lives of Joachim and Anne, but we do know that they must have been outstanding people to have been entrusted with raising the Mother of God.
St. Anne is the patron saint of the province of Quebec, where the well-known shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre, (the site of many miracles) is located. She is patroness of women in labor and those who have difficulty conceiving; she is represented holding the Blessed Virgin Mary in her lap, who again carries on her arm the Both Joachim and Anne are the patron saints of grandparents.
Devotion to St. Anne dates back to the sixth century in the Church of Constantinople and the eighth century in Rome. St. Joachim was honored very early by the Greeks, who celebrate his feast on the day following the Blessed Virgin's birthday.
My memories of celebrating today's feast as a child are very vivid. My home parish held a novena to St. Anne nine days prior to her feast day and I remember going to church every evening with mom to the devotions. I was always in awe of how my mom and the other women in our small French community were so devoted to St. Anne. When mom asked which of us kids wished to accompany her, I always volunteered -- it was a special treat and a privilege to participate in this summer evening novena praying the beautiful devotions in the quiet, candle lit church that smelled of incense and sweet perfume. It was so meditative and mystical --at times I could almost feel St. Anne's holy presence in the contemplative setting. I also remember feeling a sense of joy and accomplishment when it was over -- as if I had helped mom in achieving something special for our family and for the Lord.
PRAYER TO ST JOACHIM AND ST ANNE
Great and glorious patriarch, St Joachim, and good St Anne, what joy is mine when I consider that you were chosen among all God’s holy ones to assist in the fulfillment of the mysteries of God, and to enrich our earth with the great Mother of God, Mary most holy. By this singular privilege, you have become most powerful with both the Mother and her Son, so as to be able to obtain for us the graces that are needful to us.
With great confidence I have recourse to your mighty protection, and I commend to you all my needs, both spiritual and temporal, and those of my family. Especially do I entrust to your keeping the particular favor that I desire and look for from your intercession.
And since you were a perfect pattern of the interior life, obtain for me the grace to pray earnestly, and never to set m heart on the passing goods of this life. Give me a lively and enduring love for Jesus and Mary. Obtain for me also a sincere devotion and obedience to Holy church and the sovereign pontiff who rules over her, in order that I may live an die in faith and hope and perfect charity. Let me ever invoke the holy Names of Jesus and Mary. And may I thus be saved. Amen.