I began preaching today at a novena to St. Ann at St. Aloysius Church in Wilkes Barre, PA. Each evening at 7 PM there’s a Mass and prayers in honor of St. Ann.
You won’t find the names of Ann and Joachim in the bible, but they’re mentioned in one of the apocryphal books, the Protoevangelium of James, written shortly after our New Testament writings.
Interest in Jesus’ family came about because of claims that he was “Son of David,” the Messiah expected to come from David’s line. Against those who said Jesus was only a carpenter from Nazareth, the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke assert that Jesus is the Messiah, descended from David.
The Protoevangelium of James also sees Joachim and Ann in David’s line, and therefore Mary was too. It says they lived in Jerusalem. Did they accompany Mary to Nazareth after her marriage to Joseph? If so, Jesus had grandparents taking care of him for a time.
If that’s true, it means Ann and Joachim gave Jesus something more besides proof of his bloodline. Along with Mary and Joseph, they brought him up. As a young child he learned from them, the simplest and the most sublime things. Knowledge came to him, as it comes to us–through the senses, through mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers.
St. Ann is often pictured with her daughter Mary holding a small book in her hands. Written on the book in the statue here in this church are the words, “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart,” a verse from the psalms.
Other statues of her have different words in the book. “I,2,3,4; A,B,C,D.” The basics of life. Or notice Giotto’s picture of the presentation of Mary in the temple. (above) Ann pushes her little daughter into the temple. Just like pushing kids to church today?
Parents and grandparents play a powerful role in the lives of their children and grandchildren. They teach kids their abc’s and the sublime mysteries of faith. Maybe that’s why so many of them were here tonight in church. They know that’s true.