Monday, September 15, 2008

The Twenty-First Day of the Month of St. Anne

Widowhood and Death of St. Anne.

It appears that St, Joachim died very shortly after having consecrated to the Lord that which was dearest to him in the world, his only and beloved Daughter. The good St. Anne then dwelt alone in her house with some servants. We can easily picture to ourselves how she passed the remainder of her earthly pilgrimage, when we recall the example set by the beautiful and rich Judith who, having become a widow after seven years of marriage, faithfully preserved the memory of her husband during a century, fasting every day, girding her loins with sack cloth, living with her servants in the retirement of her house, only leaving it on feast-days to go to the Temple of Jerusalem.

At the same time as our Saint, there lived in the Temple another Anna, a prophetess who, as related by St. Luke, likewise passed her days and nights in fasting, watching and uninterrupted prayer for her people, by begging of God to hasten the coming of the Redeemer who had been promised to Abraham. It can hardly be doubted but that the Mother of Mary equaled these two celebrated women in fervor and holiness. She continued then to divide her time between prayer and the care of the poor and afflicted, and devoted herself to these good works with the more ardor and generosity, since she had now the free disposal of her time and means.

According to St. Paul, let us here remark how every Christian widow ought to pass her time. If children remain to her, she is obliged to devote herself to the care of them; but if she has remained alone, she should profit by this solitude to give herself up to prayer and other exercises of piety, and to good works. In this way the violets of her widowhood will be no less agreeable to God than the lilies of virginity.

The principal object of this holy widow’s prayers was always her Daughter, her beloved Mary; for our Savior has said: "There where our treasure is, there will the heart be also;" and what treasure had this happy Mother except Mary? By her prayers she called down heavenly dews on this virginal soil, disposing it more and more for bringing forth the noble scion of Jesse, the expected Savior. And yet, it appears, St. Anne never had the happiness of beholding Him on the earth; like her worthy spouse, she was to wait for Him in the place where the just of the Old Law were held captive until the consummation of the work of Redemption. Thus after having ploughed and sown his field, the laborer dies before the harvest, consoling himself with the thought that his children will reap the fruit of his labors! I leave you, dear readers, to imagine how precious in the eyes of the Lord was the death of these two elect, what consoling thoughts softened the bitterness of it, what help was obtained for them in this last passage, by the prayers of Mary who, even at that tender age, always infallibly obtained what she prayed for.

Joachim and Anne, blessed amongst all married pairs, happiest of the patriarchs, hasten now to die in peace; hasten to Abraham’s bosom, there to await the promised Savior, whoso coming has been hastened by your holy life and desires and by your good works. You it was who gave to the world that spotless Virgin from whom He was to spring like a lily from its verdant stalk, and since it was your merit that obtained the Mother from God, your merits also contributed to obtaining the Son’s arrival on earth. If the father, of the faithful felt a thrill of joy when he learnt the Incarnation of the Son of God, what transports of delight will be yours when you learn with what flesh He vouchsafed to clothe Himself! Glorious ancestors of our Savior God, the evening of your day has overtaken you and you are about to rest from your labors, but soon shall rise for you the dawn of that day which shall have no ending!


Six merchant vessels, having six hundred sailors on board and being heavily laden, set out from an Irish port towards St, Malo. The weather seemed to be favorable and all seemed to foretell a prosperous voyage. Towards the middle of the Channel however the weather changed. The sky became over cast, the wind blew furiously from every quarter, the lightening darted incessantly through the sky, the thunder rolled, the waves were lashed into fury and threatened to engulf the vessels. The sailors despaired of ever reaching land. After two whole days of this fearful strife, in which the vessels had lost their masts, the waves engulfed them with their crews and merchandise. Seven sailors only had the happiness of reaching land after undergoing great hardship. All seven were from Ushant and had loudly invoked St. Anne at the moment that their vessel foundered.

Captain Sylvester Jounin, being assailed by a furious tempest, had likewise despaired of safety. He had already seen three vessels near him swallowed up by the waves; his mainmast was broken, his hold was filling with water, his exhausted sailors could no longer work. There was no one who could plunge to stop the leaks of the ship which, far from the shore and from all help, seemed about to go down. The only hope was in Heaven and with one voice the crew invoked St. Anne. Even whilst they were praying the tempest was appeased and they were able to steer for land.

In the official reports, there are at least forty equally remarkable escapes recorded. In some cases vessels that had lost all their ringing an d were nearly broken up by the rocks they had been dashed against, were saved from complete shipwreck, contrary all expectation. In other cases, shipwrecked sailors escaped death by clinging to spars that floated to land, whilst others were picked up by passing vessels whilst they were invoking St. Anne.


Precious in the eyes of the Lord, says the Psalmist, is the death of his Saints; but evil is the death of the sinner. My powerful protectors, Joachim and Anne! What death can I look forward to after so many sins and so little penance and good works? Since death is generally the echo of past life, how much ought I not to fear for mine! But relying on your powerful intercession with JESUS and also with Mary and Joseph, the protectors of the dying, I dare to hope for the supreme grace of a holy death. From this very day, I wish to commence preparing for it by fleeing from sin and the occasions of it, by reforming my life, by fervent prayers, by watchfulness over myself, by exact obedience to the director of my conscience. In particular I take the firm resolution of never closing my eyes in sleep with a mortal sin upon my conscience, and of every night making an act of preparation for this passage from life to eternity which even the just look on as so formidable. It is to your prayers that I look for the strength necessary to enable me to be faithful in keeping my resolution.

Joachim and Anne, obtain for me the grace of graces, that of final perseverance and a good death.


Make a firm resolution of never going to sleep with a mortal sin upon your conscience, and of every night making an act of preparation for this passage from life to eternity.


Sanctus Belle said...

Father, thank you for this wonderful post. One thought came to mind, in the books of the visionary Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich, she tells us that by the will of God St. Anne remarried following the death of Joachim. Have you heard this? I know we are not to take visions of visionaries as given fact of course but the prudence and discernment...but she may have in fact remarried.

I once visited her shrine outside Quebec City - one of the most prayerful and holy places on earth. I strongly encourage pilgrimmage there.

Fr Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R. said...

Sanctus Belle,

I thought the author's premise rather strange given that most authors and sources say that St. Anne lived long enough to know her grandson Jesus. This is the most commonly held belief as we can see most especially in art. I had never heard the idea that she died before Jesus' birth until I read these meditations.

We must remember that we have nothing authoritative on the lives of Sts. Anne and Joachim (Scripture or Tradition). What we know is contained in tradition, that is, it has been handed on from the earliest days. Sometimes there are conflicts and one is free to believe as one will unless and until the Church declares otherwise.

I think the author is giving his personal thoughts on the matter. I do not agree with them, but their purpose is to lead the reader to prayer, not to present a biography, thus I left them as they were written.