Of all the acts of virtue performed by the holy spouses Joachim and Anne, by means of which they grew in favor with God and enriched themselves with so many merits, there is none more striking than the sacrifice which they made in separating them selves from their only and beloved Daughter on the day of her Presentation. In order to understand how agreeable this sacrifice was to God, we must consider how dear to her parents was this only Daughter sent to them in their old age, as the fruit of so many prayers and tears. In fact this lovely Child of three years old must have been charming in the eyes of every one who beheld her, combining as she did a perfect use of reason and sublime holiness with the graces of person natural to her tender age. How hard then must it have been for her parents to allow her to depart!
From the time of her birth they had lived only for her; they lived more in her life than in their own; it had become a necessity to them to see her every moment, to gaze at her, to speak to her, to hold her in their arms: how then could they accustom themselves to live without her? How sad would their home be when Mary should no longer be there! Very soon they would miss seeing her come of a morning, to kneel and ask their blessing, and then throw herself into their arms; they would no longer have her beside them at table; her voice would not resound in their ears, that voice which thrilled through them and which seemed to them like an echo of the angels voices singing the praise of God! However, they had vowed her to God and did not wish to draw back; they had ever looked on her as a sacred deposit and not as their own property and they would have thought themselves guilty of retaining what was not theirs, even of sacrilege, had they kept her with them beyond the appointed time. The harder was the sacrifice, the more did their spirits rejoice in giving her to God and thus honoring the Lord by an offering of what was dearer to them than their own eyes or their life, a part of their very selves, as the Wise Man expresses it. By this they showed themselves to be parents worthy of Mary who, uniting her will to that of the Heavenly Father, was one day to sacrifice her only Son for the glory of God and our salvation; and worthy too of being grandparents of JESUS Himself who, for love of us, was to make Himself obedient even unto the death of the Cross. Likewise these two holy spouses gave a great and important lesson to those parents who, through an excessive and too purely natural tenderness, oppose the religious vocation of their children, and even go so far as purposing to plunge them into the whirlpool of worldly pleasures, under the pretext of trying their vocation, but in reality in order to make them lose it. What would have happened if Mary’s parents had acted thus, and if (by impossibility) the holy Child had, through their fault, resist ed the call of the Holy Ghost? How many daughters would now be in Heaven and would have won their mother’s entry there, if they had but followed the attraction of grace, but now, in a like condemnation, they curse those mothers and reproach them with their ruin!
But what a glory was it not to the good St. Anne and her holy husband, through their generosity, to have contributed to the happiness and glory of the Queen of the universe! What a claim it gave them to the eternal gratitude of their beloved Daughter! For if it be true that Mary had been predestined from all eternity to the unparalleled honor of the Divine maternity, it is also true that she, on her side, was to do her utmost to fit her self for her high destiny; it is equally and undoubtedly true that her consecration to God from her earliest childhood, a consecration for which she was indebted to her pious parents, greatly contributed to forwarding God’s designs on her. Lastly, it is also true that the sublime act of Anne and Joachim drew down graces not only on their own heads, but also on hers, in direct proportion with the suffering this act caused them, and the love which prompted it.
The following is from the Annales de Ste Anne as written by Mlle. Levinia Dorion of Ayhner.
For three years and nine months, I had kept my bed, suffering from a white swelling in the left knee. Several doctors had attended me and had finally declared my case incurable. I had lost all hopes of benefitting by human aid, but on the other hand, my heart was filled with great faith in St. Anne and an intense desire of making a pilgrimage to St. Anne de Beaupre. At first I saw no means of carrying out this desire, but finally, after praying fervently to St. Anne, I was enabled to do so.
Just a few days before starting on my journey, I was so worn out with weakness and suffering that my doctor had pronounced amputation to be absolutely necessary.
However I set forth. I was carried to the railway station at Ayhner, from the train to the boat and from the boat to the church, where I was laid in the center aisle at the feet of the statue. The journey had fatigued me so much that my weakness was extreme and I lay as one dead. The time for Holy Communion having arrived, I perceived that something extraordinary was passing within me. I felt my heart more filled than ever with confidence and offered up the most fervent aspirations to Heaven, whilst a thrill of happiness penetrated my whole being. Immediately afterwards I felt my former strength gradually returning to me.
In obedience to some inexplicable impulse I rose, quite unassisted, and approaching the altar rail received Holy Communion. I then returned to my place and falling on my knees remained in prayer for a quarter of an hour. Kneeling on the very knee that had caused me so much suffering, I offered up my most fervent thanksgiving for the grace I had received. I was perfectly cured. This happened, July 3ist 1883. All glory to the great St. Anne!
My beloved Patroness, thou knowest how far I am from possessing thy generosity, how weak, tepid and cowardly I am in the divine service; thou knowest that for many months, nay years, God has been daily and in vain asking of me the sacrifice of this affection, this entanglement, this relation, this pleasure, this sensuality, this frivolity, the source of all my sins, or, at any rate, of my remaining stationary, if nothing worse, in the way of Christian perfection. I beg of thee, great Saint, for the glory of JESUS and the honor of Mary, whom thou didst so generously offer to the Lord at the first dawn of her life, to obtain for me, by thy good and powerful prayers, the strength to surmount whatever obstacle is keeping me from giving my whole love to God. Do this, and thou wilt have won for me both peace of soul and eternal salvation.
Good St. Anne, obtain for me generosity in God’s service which may resemble thine.
Invoke the help of St. Anne whenever God or your own conscience demands some painful sacrifice of you: she knows well how to make it easier for you.