In proportion as the time approached when God had resolved to send His Son on earth, it is but natural to believe that the Holy Ghost, whose most perfect work was the Incarnation of the Word, should take more active measures to purify, to sanctify the royal blood whence Our Savior was to be born. According to the universal opinion of the doctors of the Church, it was fitting that His Mother should be the purest, the most beautiful and the highest in grace of all creatures. It was but fitting that so precious a flower should spring from a beautiful stem and, although it sometimes happens that a pious child is the offspring of an irreligious father, it was nevertheless necessary, as we have already remarked, that the Mother of God should have Saints for parents. It was for this reason that the Holy Ghost chose Joachim, otherwise called Heli, from among all the sons of David to be the father of that admirable Virgin, giving him the pious Anne, a daughter of the same family, as a wife. From their very childhood, He bestowed the most precious gifts on them, so that, progressing step by step in virtue, they might, by the time of their marriage, be worthy of their sublime calling of being the grandparents of our Redeemer. He Himself disposed the relatives of both Saints to favor the union of two young people so admirably adapted to one another.
They neither of them possessed qualities that would enable them to shine in the world: they were not rich and the nobility of their race had long been forgotten. But, if over looked by the world, they were endeared to God and the holy Angels by their innocence, their piety, their submissiveness to their parents, their universal charity, their life of recollection. With what purity of intention did they not prepare for that union, the results of which were so blessed for earth and so glorious for Heaven! As we see by the example of Tobias and Sara his wife, marriage was held in high esteem by the just of those days; it was neither contracted with a view to the increase of worldly goods, nor satisfaction of mutual inclination, but in order to accomplish the divine will which was manifested through the parents of the parties. It was also contracted in order that there might be mutual aid in bearing the burden of life, and for the continuance of the only race which, at that period, worshiped the true God and blessed His Name. Now, we may well think that Joachim was quite as holy as Tobias, whilst St. Anne was in no way inferior to that chaste Sara who called on God to witness the purity of her intention in accepting a husband.
Doubtless some such formula as the following was pronounced by Anne’s father when, placing his daughter’s hand in that of St. Joachim, he blessed them both, saying: "The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob be with you, and may He join you together, and fulfil His blessing in you." Never was prayer more agreeable to God, or more magnificently granted.
The benediction, or promise in question, had been given to Abraham by the Lord in these terms: "In thee shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed," that is to say, blessing shall be heaped on them by means of thy Offspring. This Offspring of Abraham means Our Savior. From the marriage just contracted would be born Mary, and from Mary the Savior Himself. And thus the blood of Joachim and Anne, passing through the most pure heart and veins of Mary, was to become the blood of JESUS, that blood which, by being shed on Calvary, was to purify the earth and our souls, reconcile us to God, open Heaven to us; the blood transmitted by Joachim and Anne to Mary, was to form that Divine Flesh which, until the end of time, was to be mystically immolated on every altar in the world for our salvation, and to serve as spiritual nourishment to all God’s children.
At the commencement of the last century, an Irish Catholic family embarked on board a vessel in England in order to come to America. At the entrance of the gulf of St. Lawrence, a furious tempest arose, struck and dismasted the vessel and completely wrecked it. Nearly all the passengers were lost, and among them, was the father of the family we are speaking of; but the mother and daughter, both of whom wore a picture of St. Anne, escaped from death. Each was ignorant of the fate of the other, for each, after being driven about on a spar from the ship, was rescued by a different vessel, arriving in Quebec the one two days after the other.
The mother, who was on board the first vessel that arrived, believed that her daughter had perished as well as the father. The double loss proved to much for her, her mind gave way and while in such a state, she tried to put an end to her life.
The daughter having arrived in Quebec in due time, found herself, at fifteen years of age, alone in a strange land.
She learned that a woman, who had escaped from the same shipwreck as herself, was near at hand in an insane asylum and that this women had been driven mad by some terrible misfortune. Her heart at once told her that this poor madwoman must be her mother, and that she herself was not an orphan. She hastened to the establishment pointed out to her and asked for the stranger, who proved to be her mother. The daughter wished to throw herself into her mother’s arms, but the unfortunate woman, instead of recognizing her child, gazed at her quite frightened and fled away.
The young girl did not lose courage, know ing that the issues of life and death are in the hands of God. A great miracle had recently been worked at St. Anne de Beaupre and she determined to hasten thither and to have her mother likewise conveyed there. During the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which was offered by the priest for the poor woman’s recovery, the woman was struggling fearfully before the altar whilst her daughter was praying with all possible fervor. Gradually a great change took place in the face and behavior of the madwoman. She was no longer agitated but appeared calmer whilst tears began to flow and she frequently murmured: "Save me, save me." After the Mass the priest approached the mother and daughter saying to the latter: "Pray with full confidence, for your mother will be restored to you." He then gave them the relic to kiss and the mother, seizing it with feverish eagerness, pressed it to her lips and her heart. On returning the relic to the priest, she said: "How thankful I am to you, and how happy I am, but is my daughter still living? I fancy she appeared to me in the form of a beautiful Angel. "Your daughter lives and you shall see her presently," said the priest. On a sign from him, the daughter threw her arms around her mother who was thus restored to her right mind and to her daughter’s love.
Venerable Joachim and ever blessed Anne, under what a debt of gratitude is the whole Church towards you! Verily you are the blessed by the Lord, you who were found worthy, not by your riches, nor by the splendor of your birth, but by the greatness of your virtues, to contribute so intimately to the great work of our redemption. How pure must you have been, how holy, how detached from all earthly affection! The day of your union was a blessed day! For all the children of Adam, it was a forerunner of the day of deliverance, the signal for innumerable benefits, since it was the announcement of the approaching birth of Her who is justly called: "Mother of divine grace" and "Cause of our joy." Yes, it is of you above all, that it may be said that you are dear to God and to men, and that your memory is blessed! I resolve to honor you all the days of my life and to lead all others to honor you. O you, who are so powerful with JESUS and Mary, obtain from them the grace that I may imitate your purity of heart, your mortification, your recollection, and that like you, I may perform all my actions for the greater glory of God, for my own salvation and for that of my neighbor.
St. Joachim and St. Anne, obtain for me a perfect purity of intention.
Those young people, who are called to the marriage state, will here see what are the marriages which God blesses. All the faithful will recognize the gratitude they owe to Mary’s holy parents, and will take the resolution of daily honoring them by, at any rate, some short prayer.