Story of Saint Anne
St. Anne, Matron, Our Parish Namesake
Feast Day: July 26
Patron Saint of Canada; Cabinetmakers; Housewives; Women in Labor
We have no certain knowledge of the mother of Our Lady. For her name and that of her husband Joachim, we have to depend on the testimony of the apocryphal Protevangelium of James, which is not a trustworthy document even though its earliest form dates to the second century. The story told is that his childlessness was made a public reproach to Joachim, who retired to the desert for forty days to fast and pray to God. At the same time, Anne (Hannah, which signifies "grace"_ "mourned in to mournings, and lamented in two lamentations." As she sat praying beneath a laurel bush, 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 mail 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." Likewise, an angel appeared to her husband, and in due time it was born of them Mary, who was to be the Mother of God. Mary was most likely their only child.
Tradition has it that, fifty years after her death, St. Anne's body was brought to France by St. Mary Magdalen and her companions. The early cultus of St. Anne in Constantinople is attested by the fact that the Emperor Justinian I dedicated a shrine to her in the middle of the sixth century. Pope Constantine (708-715) probably introduced the devotion into Rome. There are two eighth-century representations of St. Anne in the frescoes of St. Maria Antqiua. She is mentioned conspicuously in a list of relics belonging to St. Angelo in Pescheria, and we know that Pope St. Leo III (759-816) presented a vestment to St. Mary Major which was embroidered with the Annunciation, St. Joachim, and St. Anne. But though there is very little to suggest any widespread cultus of the saint before the middle of the fourteenth century, this devotion became very popular a hundred years afterwards and was later derided by Luther.
The so-called selbdritt pictures (that is Jesus, Mary and Anne) were particularly an object of attack. At the request of certain English partitioners, Urban VI addressed in 1382 to the bishops of England alone the first papal pronouncement on the subject, enjoining the observance of an annual feast. It is quite possible that it was occasioned by the marriage of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia in that year. The feast was extended to the whole Western church in 1584. She became particularly popular in France, largely due to Tradition that her relics are there. Her popularity in France later carried to Canada.
(Adapted from 100 Saints and other sources)