26th July: Saints Anne and Joachim – The Feast of Grandparents

St. Anne and St. Joachim, Detail of Stained Glass window in St. Joseph’s Church, Central City, Kentucky. Photograph Nheyob CC by 4.0St. Anne and St. Joachim, Detail of Stained Glass window in St. Joseph’s Church, Central City, Kentucky. CC by4.0. Photograph Nheyob

When it doesn’t fall on a Sunday, July 26th  is celebrated as the feast of Sts. Anne and Joachim, the parents of Our Lady and, of course, the maternal grandparents of Our Lord.  In the scriptures Matthew and Luke trace Jesus’ ancestry to demonstrate that He is the fulfilment of great promises to the chosen people – He is the longed for Messiah. However, nothing is definitely known of Mary’s family, even the names of her parents come from a legendary source written more than a century after Jesus died.

Nick Rabiipour on the website Get Fed – Feed your Faith at https://www.getfed.com/st-joachim-st-anne-5854/ recounts the ancient poignant story of Sts. Anne and Joachim which dates to the early centuries of the Church. Like Abraham and Sarah, elderly and childless, they were scorned by their neighbours (family being of such importance in the Jewish culture). Years of longing and grief drove St. Joachim into the desert to pray whilst St. Anne, dressed in mourning, wept at home.

Trusting in God, St. Anne put on her bridal clothes and went to the garden to pray. Both she and her husband had visions of angels telling them that they would have a child who would be known throughout the world and rushed to meet each other at Jerusalem’s Golden Gate rejoicing in the great news which they had been given. Sts. Anne and Joachim are now powerful intercessors for all married couples, for couples having difficulty conceiving, for expectant mothers and for all older people.

Matteo Ciofi on SL Media at https://saltandlighttv.org/blogfeed/getpost.php?id=83774 adds the details that St. Joachim was a shepherd from Jerusalem before Mary’s birth after which they moved to Nazareth where Mary was educated in the law of the Lord, her name meaning “loved by God.” He describes the late arrival of St. Joachim in the liturgical calendar with his own feast day and the eventual uniting of the couple in their joint feast day of July 26th and notes that St. Anne is also the patron of the many duties related to being a mother. (This is probably the patronage which most of us associate with her).

So, if most of what we know about Sts. Anne and Joachim is legendary, why does the Church honour their memory? The writer at Franciscan Media at https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saints-joachim-and-anne/ points out that their holiness and heroism can be inferred from what we know of the family atmosphere around Mary in the scriptures.  She is the “…fulfilment of many generations of prayerful persons, herself steeped in the religious traditions of her people. The strong character of Mary in making decisions, her continuous practice of prayer, her devotion to the laws of her faith, her steadiness at moments of crisis, and her devotion to her relatives—all indicate a close-knit, loving family that looked forward to the next generation even while retaining the best of the past.”

The writer concludes that regardless of what we know for definite about these saints, they represent all those quiet generations who prepared an atmosphere for the Messiah by faithfully practising their faith and performing their duties.   This is a great ideal for us to emulate.   Whatever our state in life – married or single, with or without family – we may often feel burdened, unnoticed and weighed down by the day-to-day unrelenting monotony of our daily tasks, the difficulties of chronic ill health or age, or the challenges and sadness of family life.  We may cry to the Lord for help and wonder if He hears our prayers. We may feel that it is all too much and we may be desperately struggling to trust in the Lord.

All of us can turn to saints like Anne and Joachim to pray for us when we don’t have the words or strength ourselves and they will never let us down. Through their intercession we can return to the quiet, faithful practice of our faith and everyday duties and ourselves help prepare for the second coming of Jesus by being a link in that great chain of unknown individuals through the ages.  Until we meet the Lord we will never know just how much our simple prayer life and work has been building the Kingdom and that He sees it all and truly appreciates it.

The writer at Franciscan Media emphasises that July 26th is the Feast of Grandparents because it is they who have the responsibility to establish the tone for generations to come. “They must make the traditions live and offer them as a promise to little children. But the feast has a message for the younger generation as well. It reminds the young that older people’s greater perspective, depth of experience, and appreciation of life’s profound rhythms are all part of a wisdom not to be taken lightly or ignored.”

Grandparents, be comfortable in your genuine wisdom though it may seem out of step with modern life.  Be the cornerstone for the family especially in praying for them.  Be the quiet, steady rock when life assails them from all angles. You may often not need to say very much but you are truly needed to pray for your family and to do your best to make your love present to them.

Sts. Anne & Joachim inspire, comfort, strengthen & support all grandparents through your prayers.

 NOVENA PRAYER TO SAINTS ANNE & JOACHIM

Good parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, grandparents of our Saviour, Jesus Christ,
When life seems barren, help us to trust in God’s mercy.
When we are confused, help us to find the way to God.
When we are lost in the desert, lead us to those whom God has called us to love.
When our marriage seems lifeless, show us the eternal youth of the Lord.
When we are selfish, teach us to cling only to that which lasts.
When we are afraid, help us to trust in God.
When we are ashamed, remind us that we are God’s children.
When we sin, lead us to do God’s will.
You who know God’s will for husband and wife, help us to live chastely.
You who know God’s will for the family, keep all families close to you.
You who suffered without children, intercede for all childless couples.
You who trusted in God’s will, help us to respect God’s gift of fertility.
You who gave birth to the Blessed Mother, inspire couples to be co-creators with God.
You who taught the Mother of God, teach us to nurture children in holy instruction.
You  whose hearts trusted in God, hear our prayers for . . . (state your request).
Pray with us for the ministry of Catholic family life.
Pray with us for the ministry of Natural Family Planning.
Pray with us for all who give their time, talent, and treasure to this good work.

Hail Mary . . .  Our Father . . . Glory be . . .

God of our fathers, you gave Saints Anne and Joachim the privilege of being the parents of Mary, the mother of your incarnate Son. May their prayers help us to attain the salvation you have promised to your people.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.