July 26: Saints Joachim and Anne—Memorial
Late First Century B.C.–Early First Century A.D.
Saint Anne—Patron Saint of grandparents, grandmothers, mothers, roommakers, cabinetmakers, carpenters, dressmakers, equestrians, expectant mothers, homemakers, housewives, lace workers, seamstresses, miners, old-clothes dealers, Canada, and France
Invoked against sterility and poverty and to find lost articles
Saint Joachim—Patron Saint of grandparents, grandfathers, fathers, married couples, cabinetmakers, and linen traders
Liturgical Color: White
Today the Church celebrates the parents of the Virgin Mary, the grandparents of Jesus, Saints Joachim and Anne. In their home, Mary came into the world, accompanied by the extraordinary mystery of the Immaculate Conception. Mary grew up in the home of Joachim and Anne; she was surrounded by their love and faith: in their home she learned to listen to the Lord and to follow his will. Saints Joachim and Anne were part of a long chain of people who had transmitted their faith and love for God, expressed in the warmth and love of family life, down to Mary, who received the Son of God in her womb and who gave him to the world, to us. How precious is the family as the privileged place for transmitting the faith! ~Pope Francis, Angelus, July 26, 2013
Today we honor the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the grandparents of Jesus. Their names are not recorded in the Gospels but first come to us from a mid-second-century apocryphal document called the Gospel of James. Though this “gospel” has been determined to be inauthentic, it is the earliest record we have of the Blessed Mother’s parents. At the very least, we can presume that their names are correct: Joachim and Anne. Other apocryphal literature, such as the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary and the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, also contain uncertain information about these holy parents and grandparents.
According to those traditions, Joachim was a very wealthy and generous man. He and his wife, Anne, however, were childless until they were advanced in years. One day, before Anne conceived the Blessed Virgin Mary, Joachim arrived at the Temple to make an offering. It was rejected by a man named Rubim, most likely a Levitical priest, because Joachim was childless. “It is not right for you first to bring your offerings, because you have not made seed in Israel.” Children were exceedingly important at that time; to be childless was understood as disfavor from God.
Distressed, Joachim left the Temple and studied the Scriptures to see if he could find anyone of importance who, like he and Anne, were childless. When he came upon Abraham, he recalled that Abraham was only given a child in his old age. Rather than returning home to Anne, Joachim embarked on a forty-day period of fasting and praying in the desert, beseeching God for a child.
Anne, for her part, also went to pray, asking God for a child. As she prayed, an angel appeared to her and said, “Anne, Anne, the Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world.” An angel also appeared to Joachim and said, “Joachim, Joachim, the Lord God has heard your prayer. Go down hence; for, behold, your wife Anne shall conceive.” Nine months later, Anne bore a daughter, and the couple named her Mary. Because of a vow they had made, when Mary was only three, Joachim and Anne brought her to the Temple where she took up residence until it was time for her to be married. She was educated by the priests and holy women and spent her days in prayer and union with God.
Though the story of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s birth and presentation in the Temple comes from apocryphal sources, the Presentation of Mary in the Temple is a liturgical feast first celebrated in the Eastern Church as early as the sixth century and the Western Church in the eleventh century, giving credence to a lived faith and liturgical acceptance of her presentation by her parents. Interestingly, in the old city of Jerusalem, there is an ancient church that still stands next to the Temple Mount in which it is believed that the Blessed Virgin Mary was born and might have lived during her early days after being presented in the Temple.
Though not much more is known about Saints Joachim and Anne, devotion to them, especially to Saint Anne, began to grow as early as the sixth century. Churches were built in her honor, prayers were offered for her intercession, devotions were formulated, and patronages were attributed to her. It wasn’t until the sixteenth century that devotion to Saint Joachim began to grow when his feast day was placed on the General Roman Calendar.
Regardless of the authenticity of the legends about Saints Joachim and Anne, we know for certain that the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception, had parents. They loved her, raised her, and offered her to God. Today they are saints under the names of Joachim and Anne, and the faithful continue to seek their intercession. They are especially called upon for their intercession for grandparents. In fact, on a spiritual level, just as the Blessed Virgin Mary can be seen as our spiritual mother, so also Saint Joachim and Anne can be seen as our spiritual grandparents in the order of grace.
Pray to this holy couple today, especially asking their intercession for your grandparents or your grandchildren. Ponder what it would have been like to give birth to the Mother of the Son of God. Prayerfully imagine what it would have been like to watch their daughter, who was “full of grace,” grow and mature into adulthood. Though these holy parents might not have understood all of the mysteries that surrounded their daughter, they would have known, by a grace of spiritual intuition, that their daughter was chosen by God and given a singular grace that budded forth in an abundance of virtue for all to see, especially for her parents to see.
Saints Joachim and Anne, you were given the incredible privilege and responsibility to give birth to and raise the Immaculate Conception, the Mother of God. Her presence in your lives touched you both deeply and left you in awe of God’s grace. Please pray for me, that I may come to love your daughter and your Grandson with the same love you bore for each of them, so that I will enjoy their company in Heaven one day, just as you do today. Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.