What do we know about St. Ann? Other than being married to Joachim and being the grandmother of Jesus, not much, at least as history records. We only hear her name from the Protoevangelium of James, written around the year 150. Yet, as the ages rolled down, Anne became the patroness of unmarried women, (as she was wed very late in life); of housewives, of women in labor, of grandmothers, horseback riders, cabinet-makers, and the Mi’kmaq people of Canada. St Anne (as the French spell it) is also said to be a protector from storms. And here at St. Ann, we are aware of St. Ann oil and Ann’s role as an intercessor for healing. This is the ‘knowing’ of St. Ann that floated down to us through the tradition of the church.
But is this ALL we can know about St. Ann for our benefit? I think not. When you think about Ann from the perspective that she was the grandmother of the Lord, then suddenly, a few things become potentially clearer, don’t they, because many/most of us have had the experience of grandparents. So I asked some of the kids at Christian Family Camp this morning what they learned from their grandparents that they did not learn from their parents. My niece Katherine gave my favorite answer: “I learned from them that my dad is crazy.” (My other niece nodded her head in agreement. She could have asked her uncle and found the same truth.) Another shared: “I learned how delicious chocolate mint ice cream is.” A final one, when about to head off to college said: “What my grandpa shared with me about college was so much more helpful than my parents. All I got from them was a list of “no’s”. From Grandpa, I got wisdom.”
Wisdom. Truth telling. And a love that is extravagant in the form of chocolate mint ice cream. Those are wonderful images to pray about when we think of St. Ann.
Today’s scriptures give us two additional insights about the role that St. Ann can play in our lives – legacy, and gratitude. Sirach tells us:
Their wealth remains in their families,
their heritage with their descendants.
Through God’s covenant their family endures,
and their offspring for their sake.
Jesus does not appear in a vacuum, but comes from parents and grandparents and a whole family tree of people who pass on all that is of value and love from generation to generation. So we see in Jesus’ piety, a glimpse of Mary’s holiness. And we see in Mary’s holiness that Godliness of Ann and Joachim. And though we can trace that holiness backwards, what would it be for us to think about the legacy that WE are creating in our children and grandchildren? Do they see in our constancy to Sunday mass people who strive to honor God by giving him the first day of the week? Do they see any evidence of a prayer life? Do they see us doing the works of Justice, transforming this world by our actions and deeds? What will your children’s children know of God because of you?
In the gospel we hear Jesus praising his followers – and inviting them to an awareness of the graces bestowed upon them: “Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” St. Ann was privileged to see the dawn of salvation in the birth of her grandson. Yet, you and I have also seen much of grace and love and beauty. And I find, in the hustle and bustle of life that I don’t take the time I would like just to be aware of the blessings. The feast of St. Ann is an invitation to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
So if you have a grandkid – take them out for chocolate mint ice cream. (If you don’t have one, then invite a friend to go for some.) Share on that outing, some of your favorite stories that taught you about life and love. And pass on to them the faith legacy that Ann gave to Mary – a life of gratitude and love for all your eyes have seen and known…