“St. Anne, St. Anne, bring me a man!” Single ladies (half) jokingly like to say this phrase since St. Anne is one of the patron saints of housewives and mothers. Beyond this phrase and the fact that she was the Blessed Virgin Mary’s mother and Jesus’s grandmother, most Catholics don’t know much else about her. They know even less about her spouse, St. Joachim.
There’s a good reason for that; there’s not much – historically – that’s known about them. Still, there are a couple of sources that give us a bit information about them: the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James (2nd century AD), the “Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew” and the Book on the Origin of the Blessed Virgin Mary (5th century AD), and the Gospel about the Birth of Mary (6th century AD).
Want to know what these books say about the grandparents of Jesus? Here are four traditionally accepted ideas that try to fill in the gap on this saintly couple.
1. From Galilee to Jerusalem
St. Joachim is said to have been from Ephoris in Galilee. It doesn’t state where St. Anne is from or how she and St. Joachim met but legend does say that they lived in the Sheep Gate of Jerusalem after their marriage. That is where our Blessed Mother would be born.
2. The stigma of being childless
Many Catholics know they were childless for many years (some say two decades). What many may not know is that (according to tradition) St. Joachim once turned away from the temple when he went to make a sacrifice because he was childless. The episode left him feeling so insulted that he ended up withdrawing to the desert to do more acts of piety and charity.
3. Heavenly consolations
It is said that St. Anne was the first to be visited by an angel, assuring her that God had heard her prayers and that she would conceive a child. Then an angel visited St. Joachim – who was still in the desert at this point – and told him to return to his wife since the Lord had heard their prayers and they would soon be parents to a much longed-for child.
4. Saintly devotion
Are you still unsure about whether to believe what the legends say about the lives of St. Anne and St. Joachim? That’s okay. One thing that is for sure is that they definitely had “fans” early on. St. John Damascene was one of them. The Byzantine monk has been credited with spreading devotion to both saints during his lifetime. In fact, this what he had to say about the saintly couple:
“Rejoice, Anne, who was sterile and have not borne children; break forth into shouts, you who have not given birth [Is 54:1]. Rejoice, Joachim, because from your daughter a child is born for us, a child is given us, whose name is Messenger of great counsel and universal salvation, mighty God [Is 9:6] . . . The conduct of your life pleased God and was worthy of your daughter . . . While safeguarding the chastity prescribed by the law of nature, you achieved with God’s help something which transcends nature in giving the world the Virgin Mother of God as your daughter. While leading a devout and holy life in your human nature, you gave birth to a daughter nobler than the angels, whose queen she now is. Girl of utter beauty and delight, daughter of Adam and mother of God, blessed be the loins and blessed the womb from which you come! Blessed the arms that carried you, and blessed your parents’ lips, which you were allowed to cover with chaste kisses, ever maintaining your virginity.”
Now, it’s up to you to choose to accept the legends surrounding this couple or not. Despite not having much concrete evidence about their lives, there’s no denying that they are a model couple whose intercession is still worth more than gold.
St. Anne and St. Joachim, pray for us!