Feast day: July 26
The following prayer is said at the weekly Tuesday evening St Jude Novena:
Prayer to Saint Anne
Glorious Saint Anne,
Mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
filled with compassion for all who call on you,
and particularly for those who suffer,
we come before you
asking you to help us in our present needs.
Intercede for us in your kindness.
Obtain for us the final grace
of beholding God face to face,
and, with you and Mary and all the saints,
praising and loving him eternally.
Good Saint Anne,
mother of her who is our life,
our sweetness, and our hope:
pray for us.
We know nothing definitively about the parents of the Mother of God. One of the apocryphal gospels says that they were named Joachim and Anne, and goes on to relate that Mary was the child of old age and the prayers of parents who, till then, had not been blessed with children. But the account is so obviously a copying of the story of the birth of Samuel in the Old Testament and, to a lesser extent, of St John the Baptist in the New, that it would be unwise to attach any serious belief to it. It is, of course, quite probable that the names of Our Lady’s parents were well known and have been correctly passed on to us.
We do, however, venerate Joachim and Anne as the parents of the Mother of God, as the two individuals chosen by God for this very special vocation. Just as devotion to Our Lady first flowered in its fullness in the east and then spread westwards, so likewise did devotion to St Anne. Even today, the Church in the East makes rather more of her than does that of the West. In the Latin rite, St Anne has a single feast-day, on 26th July. In the Byzantine Rite (one of the several Eastern Rites) the Dormition of St Anne is commemorated on 25th July. In addition, Our Lady’s parents, Anne and Joachim, are commemorated, logically enough, on 9th September, the day following the feast of Our Lady’s birthday. The feast of Our Lady’s (Immaculate) Conception was observed by the East long before the West, in the Byzantine calendar it is kept on 9th December and titled the feast of St Anne’s Conception of the Mother of God. As the Carmelites came from the east to the west, it is not surprising to find that devotion to St Anne is a feature of Carmelite life, and that they helped forward it in Europe. Her feast is included in the two earliest Carmelite ordinals, and the General Chapter of 1375 ordered a daily commemoration to be made of her in the liturgy. In the Western Church as a whole, the devotion spread slowly; taking root in some areas early, in some late. Probably under Eastern influence, she appears in an eighth century fresco in Rome in the ruined church of S. Maria Antiqua in the Forum. But it was not until 1382 that her feast was introduced into the general calendar of the Latin Rite in the West.
The Normans seem to have been attracted to St Anne early on and brought the devotion to Ireland. It was strong in Dublin in the Middle Ages and, elsewhere in Ireland, some ancient holy wells were rededicated to St Anne. A fine example is St Anne’s well at Tomhaggard in Co. Wexford, where, in recent years, the well has been made the centre of a beautiful shrine and the ancient pattern (pilgrimage) in St Anne’s honour, restored. Brittany too, was an early centre of devotion to St Anne d’Auray (25-26 July) and Sainte Anne la Palud (23-24 August) are among the most famous and well-attended of the traditional Breton pilgrimages. St Anne, grandmother of Christ, is, of course, very specially the patron of all Catholic wives and mothers.