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In the novena to St. Anne we ask for help from our Blessed Mother’s mother! St. Anne, (pictured above) the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, has long been honored by the faithful, including such illustrative figures in our church as St. Augustine, St. John Damascene, and St. Thomas Aquinas. Indeed, a renowned religious historian, the Italian cardinal Caesare Baronius, once wrote that “veneration of St. Anne is as ancient as the Church itself.”
Glorious St. Anne, we think of you as filled with compassion for those who invoke you and with love for those who suffer. Heavily laden with the weight of my troubles, I cast myself at your feet and humbly beg of you to take the present affair which I commend to you under your special protection (name it).
Deign to commend it to your daughter, our Blessed Lady and lay it before the throne of Jesus, so that He may bring it to a happy conclusion. 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. With you and Mary and all the saints, may I praise and bless Him for all eternity. Amen. Good St Anne, mother of her who is our life, our sweetness and our hope, pray for me.
When we pray a novena to St. Anne we are enlisting the aid of one of our most beloved saints. Many churches and chapels have been dedicated to her, and numerous miracles have been ascribed to her over the centuries. She is the patron saint of, among others, mothers, pregnant women and childless couples as well. Her feast day is July 26th.
Although she is not mentioned in the Bible, St. Anne appears in the Protoevangelium of James, a second century account of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s conception, birth and early life.
St. Alphonsus Liguori relates, following tradition, that St. Anne, along with her husband St. Joachim, vowed to consecrate Mary to God’s service in the Temple. The child, conceived in St. Anne’s womb without the stain of Original Sin in what we refer to as the Immaculate Conception, readily assented at the tender age of three!
This is also in accordance with another account found in Raphael Brown’s book The Life of Mary as Seen by the Mystics. Brown compiled church approved visions given to four different religious from the 12th through the 19th centuries for this work. While we are not required as Catholics to believe these accounts, they are nonetheless quite helpful for rosary and other meditations.
Brown gives us a moving narrative of St. Ann and St. Joachim as a deeply devout loving couple who were blessed by God to be Mary’s parents, yet had to wait some twenty years after their espousal before the Immaculate Conception. Fortunately during this time they persevered quite faithfully in their prayers to have a child.
The first few chapters of The Life of Mary provide some touching details about Sts. Anne and Joachim, and also of how Mary, conceived and born without the stain of original sin, was supernaturally devoted to God even in her infancy.
Although Mary would not know of her extraordinarily divine calling to be the mother of our Savior until the Archangel Gabriel informed her of this in the Annunciation, according to Brown’s narrative, St. Ann was made aware of this by St.Gabriel himself.
Gabriel said to her “Ann, servant of God. The Lord has heard thy petitions...The Most High has resolved to give thee and Joachim holy and wonderful fruit, for those who pray to Him in humble confidence are most agreeable to Him. Now He sends me to give thee joyful news: He chooses thee to be the mother of her who is to give birth to the Redeemer of mankind! Thou shalt bring forth a daughter and she shall be called Mary. She shall be blessed among women and filled with the Holy Ghost.”
Mary for her part, once later told St. Bridget of Sweden that “From my infancy the Holy Spirit was perfectly with me. And as I grew, It filled me so completely as to leave no room for any sin to enter. When I had attained an age to know something of my Creator, I turned to Him with unspeakable love and desired Him with my whole heart...I committed my will absolutely to Him.”
Apparently, as her little 3 year old daughter entered the Jerusalem Temple, where she would spend the next ten years in prayer, instruction and service, St. Ann said “The Ark of the Covenant is now in the Temple.”
Indeed, Mary would be that Ark as she has been called by theologians such as St. Alphonsus in honor of her carrying our Savior in her womb from the Annunciation to the Nativity. Mary is even referred to as the ark of the covenant in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2976)
As a quick side note, it is important to point out that our Lord was bringing forth a New Covenant in His earthly ministry, not to abolish the Old one but rather to fulfill it, as He announced in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 5, verse 17.
Going back to St. Anne, we see, and it's not surprising, that she has been instrumental in numerous documented healings and miracles over the centuries.
St. Teresa of Avila often said “We know and are convinced that our good mother St. Anne helps in all needs, dangers, and tribulations, for our Lord wishes to show us that He will do in Heaven what she asks of Him for us.” Mary herself once said that those who honor her mother “will obtain great aid in every need, especially at the hour of death.”
On a personal note, I would like to add that when I went to visit the famous Basilica of Saint Anne de Beaupre a while back in Quebec, Canada I received a wonderful reminder of the reality of St. Anne’s supernatural healing power. In the front of the Basilica I saw a case with numerous crutches and canes. Were they meant for a medical supply facility? Hardly! They were left there by those grateful souls who suddenly no longer needed them!
Of course! That made perfect sense that our Blessed Mother Mary’s mother, our Lord’s grandmother, could facilitate miracle healings for those who traveled to that church in need of her assistance. (Not coincidentally I suspect, there are three major relics of St. Anne in the Basilica.)
Just as Mary has our back when we’re faithful to her Divine Son in our needs, so too does her mother, His grandmother St. Anne. Don’t hesitate to ask for her help in your prayers!