On the liturgical calendar tomorrow (July 26) is the feast of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne: parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, grandparents of Jesus and St. Joseph's in-laws. (That's all of them above!)
Yes, Jesus had grandparents and Joachim and Anne are fitting patron saints for our own grandparents - and for our in-laws, too. The scriptures tell us nothing of Mary's parents but legend and tradition assign them the names this day celebrates.
It was in the womb of her mother, Anne, that Mary was immaculately conceived. Although many Catholics are confused on this point, the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary's conception in Anne's womb, not Jesus' conception in Mary's womb.
I have a particular affection for St. Anne and her holy family for several reasons. When I was a child I visited the shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre, just outside of Quebec city in Canada.
My first assignment after ordination (1973) was to St. Ann Parish in the Wollaston section of Quincy. The people of there warmly welcomed a newly ordained priest who made plenty of mistakes in his first years in ministry. After five years in Wollaston, I went to study and work at the University of Notre Dame, returning in 1978 to begin nine years of campus ministry at Northeastern University and Emerson College at St. Ann University Parish in the Back Bay. Having been assigned to two parishes under the patronage of St. Anne, interrupted by four years at the University named for Anne's daughter, Our Lady, I was not surprised to be assigned in 1991 to St. Joseph Parish in Medway, named after Mary's husband.
From there I was assigned to another parish under Mary's watchful care, Our Lady Help of Christians, and then to Holy Family, a parish named after Mary, Joseph and Jesus! No small coincidence: St. Bernard Church is named for a saint who had a particular devotion to Mary and to whom is attributed the beautiful prayer, the Memorare.
The icon above, Whole Holy Family, is by Bro. Michael McGrath depicting Anne and Joachim, Mary and Joseph, the Christ Child, the Holy Spirit and a couple of pets from the Holy Household!
James Martin, SJ has reposted a meditation on a mosaic of Ann and Joachim found in the chapel of Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. The artist is another Jesuit: Marko Rupnik.
Martin's comment on the intimacy the couple shares in Rupnik's work put me in mind of Gioto's Anne and Joachim, here:
Martin points out, "How rare it is in a Christian setting to see a couple portrayed in such a clear demonstration of physical affection." How sad that even depictions of a chaste embrace shared by a married couple seldom find artistic expression.
In searching for images for this feast day, I was disappointed in how few are the portrayals of Anne and Joachim with their grandson, the Christ. There are some instances of Anne and Joachim with Mary in her childhood but it seems to me that at least on occasion, Mary and Joseph might have asked these sainted grandparents to babysit!
Perhaps an artist out there might muse on these possibilities...
Over at Work of the People, Diana Macalintal has a wonderful prayer for children to pray for their grandparents - especially appropriate on this Feast of Jesus' grandparents, Anne and Joachim.
The beautiful sculpture above is by Timothy Schmalz and depicts Anne and Joachim embracing the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
A Child's Prayer for Grandparents
Dear God, please bless my grandparents.
Thank you for the life they gave my parents
and for the life they give to me.
For the ways they helped me and made me strong, I give thanks.
For the ways they love me no matter what, I rejoice.
For the ways they have paved the road
that leads me here, I am grateful.
Let them grow in wisdom and joy in life.
Let them find peace and rest from their work.
Let them be healed of every sickness and pain.
And let them see with their own eyes
the glory of your Son, Jesus,
in the love of their children and grandchildren.
Bless them always until they come to rest in you.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Copyright © 2005, Diana Macalintal
Happy feast of St. Joachim and St. Anne to you all!
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