As promised, this week I will talk about Sts. Anne and Joachim whose feast we celebrated on July 26th.
Sts. Anne and Joachim are the parents of Mary. While they are not mentioned in the Scriptures, their names and story are a part of Catholic tradition. In particular, the details of their life come to us from a book called the Proto-Gospel of James. Though this book was not included in the Bible, it is considered a good source of information about other details in the life of Christ.
In that “gospel” the parents of Mary are presented as holy and observant Jews. However, like so many holy couples of the Bible they were unable to have children. This was a great cause of shame for them. It was in the depth of this shame that God answered their prayers. He sent an angel to announce to Anne that she would conceive and bear a daughter who “shall be spoken of in all the world.”
And indeed, it took place. Anne conceived and bore the most famous daughter in all history, Mary.
Tradition tells us that Joachim and Anne understood Mary to be special from an early age. So, when she was older they brought her to the temple of God to serve in the house of the Lord. She would have been a kind of sacristan, cleaning and mending priestly garments. Since the priests of those days offered rams and goats, I’m guessing the vestments got pretty dirty.
Joachim and Anne start to fade from the story as Mary gets older. Perhaps they lived to see their grandson, Jesus, but we really don’t know. Sts. Joachim and Anne are a good reminder that Mary’s holiness, while a special gift from God, was also the result of the tireless and humble effort of her holy parents.
St. Anne is a patron saint of Canada. Her most famous shrine in the world is located just outside Quebec City in a small village called Beaupre. Many miracles have been attributed to St. Anne in that shrine. In fact, my own family has been marked by a mini- miracle of St. Anne. I’ll tell that story next time.