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Sts. Joachim and Ann

July 26, 2009

Today is the feast of grandparents, and in particular we are honoring Jesus’ maternal grandparents, Saints Joachim and Ann.

In the Scriptures, Matthew and Luke furnish a legal family history of Jesus, tracing ancestry to show that Jesus is the culmination of great promises. Not only is his mother’s family neglected, we also know nothing factual about them except that they existed. Even the names Joachim and Ann come from a legendary source written more than a century after Jesus died.

This is the “feast of grandparents.” It reminds grandparents of their responsibility to establish a 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. (American

Although nothing is known about either of them, tradition fills up the story of their lives. Joachim is said to have been born at Nazareth and married Anne when he was still a young man. He was a rich farmer who possessed great herds. Because they had no children for many years, Joachim was publicly mocked–to be childless was considered a punishment for unworthiness. One day the Temple priest even refused Joachim’s offering of a lamb. In a last prayer for a child, he withdrew to the desert and fasted for forty days.

Anne’s father is said to have been a nomadic Jew named Akar, who brought his wife to Nazareth for their daughter’s birth. Anne, too, after her marriage to Joachim, was saddened that God had not blessed them with children. She would weep and pray for God to answer her prayer. One day as she was praying beneath a laurel tree feeling that even Joachim had abandoned her (he was in the desert), an angel is said to have told her that God had heard her prayers. She would have a child who would be praised throughout the world. Anne replied, “As my God lives, if I should conceive either a boy or a girl, the child shall be a gift to my God, serving Him in holiness throughout the whole of its life.”

Then the angel told her to run and meet her husband, who in obedience to another angel, was returning with his herds. They met by the Golden Gate and from that time Anne prepared for the blessed event. Saint Anne gave birth to Mary when she was about 40. It is said that Anne kept her promise and placed Mary in the service of God at the Temple when she was but three years old. According to tradition, she and Joachim lived to see the birth of Jesus and Joachim died just after seeing his divine grandchild presented in the Temple at Jerusalem, and was buried in Jerusalem. (Saint Patrick,


The Pope then asked the faithful to pray for grandparents, “who in families are often the witnesses of the fundamental values of life.”

“The educational role of grandparents is always very important and becomes even more so when, for various reasons, parents are unable to dedicate an adequate amount of time to their children. I entrust to the protection of St. Anne and St. Joachim all grandparents of the world, imparting a special blessing.”  (Catholic News Agency)

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