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Catholic Heroes… St. Anne, Mother Of Mary

August 2, 2022 saints No Comments

By DEB PIROCH

Our Baba, or my Great-Grandmother Anna, was an immigrant to this country from Slovakia. I was blessed to know her when I was very young, elementary school age, and she about 90. She and her husband Joseph had been married over 70 years. She was fragile and was reverting to speaking Slovak again, but always had a rosary in her hand.
My father, Joe, stayed with his grandparents during his days in high school and later again in medical school. She was a third order Franciscan and each night retired to do her prayers after dinner. He would bring her tea and they would talk and she knew, in her holy simplicity, just the right advice to give him when something was on his mind. Not surprisingly perhaps, her daughter she named Mary. A son was named Joseph, and faith was always first in the family. In fact, Baba had also married a Joseph, too. Rather like the Holy Family.
We know little of St. Anne, and Butler’s Lives and other sources state that the first evidence comes from something called the Protoevangelium of James, which the Church did not deem accurate enough to be in the Bible. Anne is a Greek version of the name “Hannah,” meaning “grace.” It was observed for a long period in the East before the West came to believe some aspects of it.
However, this is source where we discover that Mary’s parents had difficulty conceiving and her mother, Anne, and father, Joachim, prayed. An angel appeared to Anne as she grieved beneath a laurel bush and told her to take courage. Almost in an echo of what would occur to her daughter, she was told: “Thou shalt conceive and bring forth and thy seed shall be spoken of in all the world.” Anne answered whether the child be male or female, “I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God and it shall minister to Him in holy things all the days of its life.” And just as Joseph dreamt of an angel asking him to be steadfast to his betrothed, Mary, an angel appeared to Joachim, telling him in this case his wife would conceive.
As we know, Mary was the Immaculate Conception.
She who was conceived without the original sin to be the mother of our Savior. And at a young age, Anne brought her to the temple to be raised.
The first evidence of veneration to Anne known to us is in Constantinople, when Emperor Justinian the Great dedicated a shrine to her in the sixth century, but it is quite possible they knew things even earlier yet lost to history. Pope St. Leo III (795-816) presented a vestment to St. Mary Major approximately two centuries later featuring the Annunciation and Saints Anne and Joachim. An annual feast was first declared by Urban VI in 1382, and St. Anne’s fame grew extraordinarily during the Middle Ages. Some argue that only at this time was Anne venerated, but one sees that is simply not the case.
Ironically, a secondhand story about Martin Luther relates that when he was caught in a horrible thunderstorm, when lightning struck nearby, he uttered: “Help me St. Anna! And I will become a monk!” And despite his father’s wishes, the story goes that he kept his promise — insofar as entering a monastery. St. Anne was the patron saint of miners at the time, and his father was a miner.
There are many relics that appeared and again, according to Butler’s Lives, but there is doubt as to how real many of her relics are. Because Pope St. Leo III is mentioned above, I think the story of the discovery of St. Anne’s body makes some sense to retell here. Also, one thinks some other relics must have been verified, in that Pope Julius II declared in 1506 that her relics would reside in Duren, Germany. Most of her relics may no longer be there, however, as testified by the story below.
Just over a decade after our Lord’s death, some Christians including Saints Mary Magdalen, Martha, Lazarus, and other Christians escaped Jerusalem and allegedly brought with them the body of Mary’s dear mother. They landed in southern France, in a location called “Apt,” and buried her body there, hidden for protection. The first bishop, St. Auspicius, created a deeper subterranean chapel for safety. There her tomb remained forgotten for centuries.
Fast forward to the eighth century. We have as ruler Charlemagne, a great military leader and the first Holy Roman Emperor. He helped ensure the safety of the Pope, which led to his crowning and title, but he did so much more. For our purposes here, let us just mention that he had traveled to Apt, where a new cathedral had been built on the side of the old, crumbling one.
During the consecration, there was a sudden interruption. Suddenly, a blind and deaf 14-year-old boy began tapping on a stone. His name was John Casanova. His friends and family tried to gently quiet him. But he pounded harder. After Mass ended, as the stone was near the steps to the altar, Charlemagne had the floor opened up. Below they found a crypt where centuries before St. Auspicius had said Mass. Charlemagne described this as an “artistically designed underground cave.” But that was not all, there were stairs and tunnels going deeper.
Taking John’s hand, they descended into the catacombs. Advancing by the light of a lantern, a wall blocked their advance. They broke it down and another crypt lay before them. As they pushed through they saw a sarcophagus lit by a bright unearthly light that went out once they glimpsed the contents of the space. John — dumb since birth — cried out. Charlemagne later reported he said: “Here is the body of St. Anne, mother of the pure and immaculate Virgin Mary.” Charlemagne and Pope St. Leo III documented the event and these are preserved even today.
(The pictures may be seen online at http://www.magdalenepublishing.org/blog/sainte-anne-relics-discovered/.)
Today St. Anne is a patron of motherhood, infertility and childbirth, but to me she will always be associated with my dear Baba, the one with praying for her family with the rosary in her hand.
Prayer for special intent: Glorious St. Anne, filled with compassion for those who invoke thee, and with love for those who suffer, heavily laden with the weight of my troubles, I cast myself at thy feet and humbly beg of thee to take the present affair which I recommend to thee under thy special protection. Vouchsafe to recommend it to thy Daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and lay it before the throne of Jesus, so that He may bring it to a happy issue. Cease not to intercede for me until my request is granted. Above all, obtain for me the grace of one day beholding my God face to face, and with thee and Mary and all the Saints, praising and blessing Him to all eternity. Good St. Anne, mother of her who is our Life, our Sweetness and our Hope, pray to her for us, and obtain our request.
Her feast day is July 26.

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