Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Good Saint Anne

Although not mentioned in the bible, Catholic tradition holds that Saint Anne and Saint Joachim were parents of the Blessed Mother, the pure and holy vessel that brought Jesus, their grandson, into a sinful world. Further stated is that they were a source of love and comfort to the family during his childhood. Were they there when he took his first steps? Did he race to dive into their arms when they visited? Did they tell him stories of prophets and kings from his rich Jewish culture? Did Joachim conspire with Joseph to surprise him with toys crafted of wood? I like to think they did all of those things. Jesus loved his grandparents!

The parish of my childhood honors Saint Anne with an annual nine day novena that concludes on her feast day, July 26th. The parishioner sponsored Society of Saint Anne welcomes all, as it has since 1940, collectively honoring the grandmother of Jesus and praying for members both living and deceased. An elegant gold and white satin banner bears the signature of each devotee. It is ceremoniously unfurled and carried in procession during a closing ritual that I have often attended.....

It is dusk, and candles in white paper cups flicker like wings of tiny angels. I stand silently with others; expectant. A murmur of prayer from the altar. The sanctifying rite of incense. Elevation of the ornately encased Saint Anne relic. A sweep of heraldry as the banner cascades into place. My maternal grandmother once placed her name upon that field, as did my mother and I. We will be included in petitions for God's mercy upon souls long after I, too, am gone.

I take my place in the procession as we exit, row by row. My voice is one of dozens, accompanied by haunting, timeless strains....

To kneel at thine altar in faith we draw near
Led onward by Mary, thine daughter so dear
Oh Good Saint Anne
We call on thine name,
Thy praises loud thine pilgrims proclaim

I pass row upon row of pews. The memorable fifth one, my place on the morning I accepted first communion as a child of seven years. The ones that held me when we buried dad and mom. Ahead is the holy water font where my sisters and I baptized our dolls, slipping into the comforting Saturday afternoon silence of this place during an era of innocence from my long ago past. And here stands the familiar bank of petition candles. I came home to light these in desperation, hoping for final exam week help when God temporally ceased to be important in my life during self-absorbed college years.

Miserere mei, Deus

We move outside now, into a neighborhood once solidly working class, but distinctively less so today. Along this same side walkway I hurried home from parish school, pleated plaid skirt flying. In season, jacket pockets full of chestnuts from the sheltering row of trees my own grandfather helped plant as a Lithuanian immigrant founding member of this congregation. If I dallied late to help Sister clean the chalkboards, I'd sometimes cross paths with furniture factory workers headed home on foot. Before massive wooden doors of the church, they'd pause, lunch pails in hand, to reverently remove a hat and offer a respectful bow. "Within these walls, my Lord dwells." My father and grandfather would have done the same thing. Perhaps that is why I am always happiest here. This is my home. My heritage.

Back within shelter, I reclaim my pew -  my favorite. The one I occupied the year a guest priest, a vivacious young Nigerian, delivered a homily that changed my life. "Jesus is your brother, no?" he challenged. "Well then, Saint Anne is your grandmother too!" Hmmm. I had never thought of her that way. "Who," he continued, with a distinct twinkle in his eye, "has ever been turned away by a grandmother for anything they've asked for?" I liked that. It was true! "A novena is a petition," Father energetically concluded, "Go ahead! Ask your grandmother for whatever you want!" And so I did. "You are a grandmother, Saint Anne," I reasoned, "I want to be one too!" Well and good. But, I am not sure, even today, what prompted me to bolster my request with an addendum. Perhaps it was the urgency of Father's robust words that invigorated my plea. "Twins, please, Saint Anne! I want to be a grandmother of twins."

One year later, in late August, I greeted the first of my grandchildren. Twin boys. Additional babies followed, a total of eight today - a ninth on the way. Enough for everybody! That number includes twin sisters for the boys. Two sets! I'd only requested one! When the irreverently-crazy part of my brain is active and I contemplate the mounting number of Easter baskets and Christmas stockings I am now obliged to fill, I'm tempted to send a playful message to Saint Anne: "All right! Thank you! But you can stop now!" But of course, I won't. This is my grandmother we're talking about. She knows what I need. And, with approval from her divine grandson, she will always intercede for me. That, with all my heart, is what I believe.

To all who invoke thee, now lend us an ear
Thou soothest the sorrows of all who draw near


  1. Beautifully written and very true! Twins it was 😊

  2. This is the beauty of God...thank you for sharing at Be Beautiful linkup today.

  3. How very inspiring and interesting, my parish doesn't do so much for Saint Anne.
    I am a catholic convert since Easter 2014 and love the Catholic faith.
    What brought me to the faith was Mary and her visits to Medjugorje. I had always wanted to visit since 1992 when I first heard about this place and the Blessed Mother appearing there.
    last winter I attended a study group about Saint Anne and saint Joachim Mary's parents.

    My gosh 2 sets twins wow, wonderful for sure
    Glad I found you on linky party at Annes Attic


  4. Thank you so much for joining Thoughts of Home on Thursday this week. We are happy to have you. Pinning.

  5. That was beautiful! You are a wonderful Grandmother, too!

  6. I am a recent follower of yours. This was interesting to me. Since my name is Ana and grew up in the Catholic Church, I always new Anne was the mother of Mary. I did not know that this was not in the Bible. It was nice to here of her as being a fellow grandmother.

  7. Such a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing it at SYC! xx Jo

  8. Hi J, I'm Anne, and I'm visiting from the Home Matters blog hop. I had to check your post out when I saw St Anne, she's my namesake! Congrats on all the grand babies. Anyway, have a wonderful day, and I hope you can pop over to my blog ( sometime to say hi!

  9. Geez I am ready to cry here!

    What a beautifully written heartfelt absolutely freakin' wonderful post XO

    Before the tears welled up I did have to snicker at you and your sisters baptizing your dolls :)

  10. How beautiful...I think I am crying and laughing through this post.

  11. Very interesting and heart felt post! Thanks for sharing it with SYC.

  12. Beautiful post! I know a few women who are struggling with fertility and I pray to St Anne for them to give them comfort and the blessing of a child.

  13. Years of Catholic school and plenty of uniforms and clip-on ties, and I don't remember St. Anne. Was I not paying attention or have the years caused me to forget? I don't know, but I certainly appreciate this beautiful reminder. Your ever increasing number of beautiful and handsome grandkids keep all your readers smiling. I may need to put St. Anne on speed dial as I work through letting go as my grands go through their teen years. When you love your grandchildren as much as all grandmothers do, it is wonderful to see them blossom into young adults but it also pulls at your heart strings. I smiled at your first photo because I remember having several statues like that in my younger years, and I've gone to the petition candles too many times to count. Nice post, friend. You made the day a little brighter. :-)

  14. Reading this was a good start to my day here across the pond :) thank you!

  15. Blessings to you and thanks for joining What to do weekends every week. I am a fan of your blog!! Linda @Crafts a la mode

  16. Hello, what a wonderful post. The statue is beautiful. I also went to Catholic schools. You are blessed with your beautiful grandchildren. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

  17. I don't think I'd ever considered Jesus' grandparents. Congratulations on your grandchildren! Two sets of twins in one family must keep the parents very busy, but what a blessing!

  18. Twins!!!! We were always taught that about St. Anne in school....maybe it was because we belonged to St. Annes Parish!

  19. Love this post. The votives and the prayers are really lovely. And twins??? Sweet!

  20. So many blessings in such a short amount of time!
    When I was pregnant with my first child, a good, lovely woman forewarned me about how my relationship with Mary would change once I held my baby at his first Christmas Mass. It was so true. I wonder if I will feel a deeper connection with Anne once my babies start having babies.

  21. Always loved St. Anne and I remember learning how special she is. Love your beautiful story.