Not every earthly grandmother is necessarily a doting one, but the stereotype is well deserved. Speaking as a grandmother, it’s easy to adore the next generation of these precious children of God.
St. Anne bore the Immaculate Conception in her womb. She is the grandmother that God chose for his Son so imagine the power of her prayers. Although I’m named after her for my middle name, I mostly neglected her for most of my life — but now as a grandmother, I realize what a dear saint she is.
What we understand of St. Anne comes from apocryphal literature (meaning we can’t be certain of its authenticity) — chiefly the Protoevangelium of James — dating back to around the year 150. We are told that Anne, wife of Joachim, was advanced in years and that her prayers for a child had not been answered.
“Once as she prayed beneath a laurel tree near her home in Galilee, an angel appeared and said to her, ‘Anne, the Lord hath heard thy prayer and thou shalt conceive and bring forth, and thy seed shall be spoken of in all the world.’ Anne replied, ‘As the Lord my God liveth, if I beget either male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God; and it shall minister to Him in holy things all the days of its life.’ And thus, Anne became the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
Early Christian History
Devotion to Saint Anne, honored as the holy mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus, was popular among early Christians. In the year 450, a church to honor St. Anne was built in Jerusalem that marks the traditional site of the home of Jesus’ maternal grandparents, Anne and Joachim, and the birthplace.
Next to the church is the large excavation area of the Pools of Bethesda, where Christ healed a sick man (John 5:2-9). It was the apocryphal Gospel of James that places the house of her parents, Anne and Joachim, close to the Temple area.
The present basilica was built by the Crusaders just before A.D. 1140. Its crypt was the cave where it is believed Mary had been born. It was overtaken by the Muslim conquest in 1189, but at the end of the Crimean War between the Ottoman Turkish Empire and Russia, the Sultan of Istanbul in 1856 offered the site to the French government in gratitude for its help during the war. France undertook extensive restoration, returning the basilica as closely as possible to the original.
Modern Devotion to St. Anne
There are churches and shrines to St. Anne throughout the world. A popular shrine is St. Anne de Beaupré in the province of Quebec where the first chapel was built in 1658. Today nearly one million visitors come annually from all around the world, many claiming to receive miracles.
The first reported miracle happened during the construction of the original church when Louis Guimont was healed of crippling back pain after laying three stones in the foundation of the church. Today the pillars at the entrance to the Basilica are covered with crutches canes, and braces representing those that have been healed.
Those wanting to increase their devotion to St. Anne can join the online group, The Grandchildren of St. Anne. It was formed to spread devotion to St. Anne as our grandmother to obtain many, graces. The creator of this site, Dr. Brian Kiczek, is also the author of the book (on Kindle) God’s Grandmother: Saint Anne. In it, he shares that he believes his daughter received a healing through St. Anne’s intercession. The book includes a re-enactment of the life of St. Anne gleaned from historical writings, prayers and devotions, saints’ quotes about her, reports of miracles attributed to her, and information about the Basilica of the Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupré.
Kiczek also draws on the visions of the mystic Blessed Ann Catherine Emmerich from her writings recorded in The Life of the Virgin Mary. She reported seeing a vision of an angel who appeared to St. Anne who had prayed for a child after suffering many years of barrenness.
"In the moment when the light of the angel had enveloped Anna in grace, I saw a radiance under her heart and recognized in her the chosen Mother, the illuminated vessel of the grace that was at hand. What I saw in her I can only describe by saying that I recognized in her the cradle and tabernacle of the holy child she was to conceive and preserve; a mother blessed indeed. I saw that by God's grace Anna was able to bear fruit."
Given her own years of infertility, St. Anne has become a popular intercessor for couples suffering from the same condition. People also turn to her when praying for a spouse. After all, what loving grandmother does not want a good spouse for her grandchildren? The site Pray More Novenas which leads novenas and sends out email reminders, is run by a married couple, Annie and John Paul. Annie prayed this novena to St. Anne for a husband and a short time later met her husband.
Although St. Anne must have lived a seemingly uneventful life, she was the grandmother of the Savior of the world. So, it is no surprise that she would be a powerful intercessor. Her feast day is July 26. St. Anne, pray for us!