Jesus said: “By their fruit you will know them. A good tree brings forth good fruit, but a bad tree brings forth bad fruit” (Mt 7:16-17). These words of the Greatest Master and Teacher of the world can most appropriately be applied to Jesus’ two grandparents, the mother and father of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Their names have traditionally been known to be Saint Joachim (father of Mary) and Saint Ann (mother of Mary). We celebrated their feast yesterday, July 26.
Our humble work of promoting a knowledge, love, and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, would be incomplete if nothing were mentioned about the parents of Mary, of the grandparents of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Both Saint Joachim and Saint Ann merit the highest honor and respect!
I honestly believe that given the high estate of their daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary, right reason and logic point to the fact that Saint Joachim and Saint Ann deserve our study—our knowledge of them, our respect for them, our prayers to them, as well as our trust in the power of their intercession in our daily lives. Indeed, they are underestimated and all too often unknown by many Catholics!
There is no actual Biblical data on Saints Joachim and Ann. Nonetheless, tradition points out that this husband and wife were the vessels from which God sent into the world the greatest woman ever to be born and ever to live, who would become the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven and earth! From this woman, the fruit of the love between Saint Joachim and Saint Ann, would be born Jesus, our Lord God and Savior. For these reasons, we highlight the great importance of this couple.
The Suffering Of Saint Joachim And Saint Ann. This was their greatest suffering: like Abram and Sarai, like Hannah, like Saint Elizabeth and Zechariah—Saint Joachim and Saint Ann, despite their great desire and longing, were never able to have children. Furthermore, according to tradition, by now Ann, like Elizabeth, was beyond the normal child bearing age. This was a source of excruciating suffering for Joachim and Ann, given that they both had really wanted children.
Their Generosity. Despite their longing and suffering in not having a child, Saint Joachim and Saint Ann had very generous hearts. They were a devout Jewish couple, a very prayerful couple, and a humble couple. How did this unfold? From the economic means they had for themselves, they preferred to give most of it away. In other words, they were really detached from material things—especially money and its dangers—as they had their hearts set on God. As Jesus would say later on in His teachings that we read in the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and everything else will be given to you be besides” (Mt 6:33). Therefore, Saint Joachim and Saint Ann gave one third of their means to the poor; another third, they gave to the Temple and its upkeep; and they kept only a third for themselves. Talk about generosity in tithing! Most people who tithe consider themselves generous when they give ten percent of their earnings to the poor or to the Church. In the case of Saint Joachim and Saint Ann, they gave away two thirds, or, if you like, 66% of their means!
God Cannot Be Outdone In Generosity. How true the saying: “God cannot be outdone in generosity.” God intervened in a most powerful way in response to the prayerful, humble, and generous hearts of Saint Joachim and Saint Ann. In seemingly impossible circumstances, God blessed them with a child! It would be a little girl. The little girl’s name would be Mary. However, this would not be an ordinary little girl. This would be the greatest little girl in the history of the world. Because of who she was and whom she would bring into the world, all humanity would be radically transformed. Where did their generosity come from? They were totally detached from all except God.
Saint Ann And The Immaculate Conception. In the womb of Saint Ann and through the seed of Saint Joachim, God performed one of the greatest miracles in the history of the world. This miracle is called the Immaculate Conception. Yes, this took place in the womb of Saint Ann! That is to say, at the moment Saint Ann conceived a little girl in her womb—whom Saint Ann and Saint Joachim would name Mary—God intervened with what is called the Immaculate Conception.
In the very moment of the conception of Mary in Saint Ann’s womb, God intervened with His all-holy Presence and preserved Mary from the stain of Original Sin. Yes! From the very moment of Mary’s conception, she was preserved from Original Sin. To be perfectly clear, the stain of original sin which taints all the rest of humanity, never touched Mary most holy! For that reason, the English poet, Wordsworth, lauded Mary in these words: “Our tainted nature’s solitary boast!” We were all conceived in sin, the sin of Adam and Eve, the Original Sin. Mary was preserved from this Original Sin, this Original stain, this Original moral sickness, this Original disaster! However, this must be highlighted: it was through Saints Ann and Joachim conceiving a child that this extraordinary privilege of the Immaculate Conception could be given by God to the child they conceived. Therefore, we should have the greatest reverence, admiration, honor, and respect for Saints Ann and Joachim, and for the womb of Saint Ann that carried Mary, the Immaculate Conception, who would become the Mother of God.
There is still much that can be harvested from this abundant and rich mystery of the persons of Saint Joachim and Saint Ann. Here are some.
Patience. This holy couple teaches us the virtue of patience. They waited many years and finally God blessed them with the greatest gift—a child. Moreover, this child would be the Mother of God!
Prayer. They prayed, and God was pleased with their prayers due to their humility, patience, generosity, purity, and great love for God and His mysterious but wise and Providential plans. May we learn to pray like Saint Joachim and Saint Ann. May we ask for their prayers to help us to pray better!
Patrons of Parents. Of course, as said earlier, “A good tree brings forth good fruit.” Saints Joachim and Ann raised the greatest and most holy girl in the world. Therefore, it must be said that they can be the patrons of parents who have to struggle so hard to raise their children in the love of God and fear of the Lord, due to the many worldly distractions and temptations pulling their children away from God. Pray earnestly and fervently to Saints Joachim and Ann to guide you and to help guard and protect your children from the evils that surround them.
Patron of Grandparents. We should not overlook the fact that Jesus indeed did have two grandparents, and they were Saint Joachim and Saint Ann. Try to imagine Saint Joachim and Saint Ann holding their grandchild, the little Baby Jesus, tenderly in their loving arms. How much Saint Joachim and Saint Ann loved their daughter Mary, and their Grandson, the Lord Jesus. They can certainly help grandparents who beseech their intercession to carry out their noble mission in the sanctification of the family.
Patron of Spouses. Even though this might be obvious, it still should be mentioned: Saint Joachim and Saint Ann formed an exemplary marriage; they were an excellent married couple. They were faithful. They lived out fully the marriage promises and commitment: “Faithfulness in good times and in bad, in health and in sickness, in riches and in poverty, until death do they part.” Hopefully they will serve as a model for married couples in the realm of promising to be faithful and then living it out!
Instruments in the Economy of Salvation. Indeed, it must be stated that it was through Saint Joachim and Saint Ann that the history of the salvation of the entire world had its beginning. They brought forth Mary, the Mother of God; and their daughter Mary gave us Jesus, the Savior of all humanity! For this reason, we have both Saint Joachim and Saint Ann to thank for bringing Mary, the Immaculate Conception, into the world.
The Offering And Presentation Of Mary As A Gift To God. According to Tradition, Saint Joachim and Saint Ann presented Mary at an early age to be brought up in the Temple in thanksgiving to God. The Church celebrates the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary every year on November 21st. Thus was Mary prepared for her sublime mission to become the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, and the Mother of each and every one of us.
In conclusion, Saints Joachim and Ann are indeed great saints. Unfortunately, they are unknown by all too many. Their greatness in the economy of salvation can barely be measured.