Grandparents of the Lord
In seventeenth century France devotion to the Holy Family became a mark of the renewal that, following the Council of Trent, blew through the Church like a refreshing breeze, a mystical invasion. The Holy Family was understood, at that time, to refer to the entire extended family of Jesus, including his grandparents, Joachim and Anna.
Ireland’s Shrine of Saint Anne
The Normans brought devotion to Saint Anne to Ireland and established a shrine in her honour in a chapel dedicated to Saint Audoen, Bishop of Rouen, at Cornmarket in Dublin. Dublin’s devotion to Saint Anne dates from 1169/1170, and developed around the a relic of the finger bone of Saint Anne that the Normans brough with them to Ireland. So fervent was popular devotion to Saint Anne that by 1352 the festival of Saint Anne on 26th July was declared a holyday of obligation. In 1431, King Henry VI granted letters patent establishing the Guild of St. Anne – “to the praise of God and of the Blessed Virgin Mary and in honour of St. Anne”. Six priests were necessary to tend to the needs of pilgrims from within Ireland, from Britain and from the Continent. The Church contained a Lady Chapel honouring both the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Anne. The Seal of the Guild of Saint Anne can be seen today in Saint Audoen’s Church.
Shrines of Saint Anne in the New World
From France, Jesuit missionaries, Ursuline and Hospitaller nuns, and devout layfolk carried the devotion to the Holy Family to New France. A sanctuary dedicated to Saint Anne was built in 1658 between the Saint Laurence River and the Beaupré coast in Québec. Other smaller shrines to Saint Anne, in Isle La Motte, Vermont, in Sturbridge and in Fall River, Massachusetts, and in Waterbury, Connecticut, mark the “Catholic geography” of New England.
Under the Protection of the Saints
Saints Joachim and Anna arrived in North America with the first colonizers from France and Spain, those who named every new place for the saints of Christ. By this, they made it clear that the Kingdom of Heaven was also expanding and that all places and peoples were invited to live in communion with the saints, and under their protection.
The Patronage of the Holy Family
After the French Revolution, the Church enjoyed an extraordinary burst of energy characterized by the foundations of hundreds of new religious communities of women; many of these nineteenth century foundations were dedicated to the Holy Family and, again, the grandparents of the Lord were not excluded. Some of these French communities came, in turn, to America where they taught generations of Catholics to reverence the human family of Christ and to live in communion with the saints.
The Vocation of Grandparents
Saint Anna and Saint Joachim have a special message for grandparents. Grandmothers and grandfathers have a particular vocation in the order of grace. Grandparents are called to foster the supernatural life of their grandchildren, to pray for them, to pray with them, and to model holiness for them. Grandparents can reach places in a child’s heart that no one else can reach. Grandparents can introduce their grandchildren to the joy of living with the saints.
The Things That Call to Mind the Saints
We are the spiritual descendents of the saints. We profess our faith in the communion of the saints and acknowledge their presence in our homes and in our lives. We renounce the evil ideologies of secularization that, by suppressing the things that call to mind the saints, aim at erasing the supernatural from daily life.
In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, heaven descends to earth and earth is assumed into heaven. In the Holy Mass there is infinitely more than what meets the eye. Saints Joachim and Anna are present to us; their most holy Daughter, the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, is present to us. Let us ask them to join their intercession to ours, imploring peace for the whole world, and blessings upon our families. This, too, is the communion of the saints: the Holy Sacrifice offered here can bring peace and blessings to thousands of hearts and places. Live then, as if you were seeing the invisible! There is nothing more real than that.
Introit of the Mass taken from ‘Saint Andrew Daily Missal’:
Gaudeamus omnes in Domino, diem festum celebrantes sub honore beatae Annae: de cujus solemnitate gaudent Angeli, et collaudant Filium Dei. * Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum: dico ego opera mea Regi.
Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a festival-day in honour of blessed Anne; on whose solemnity the angels rejoice, and give praise to the Son of God. (Ps. 44:2) “My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works to the King”.