The Life of Saint Ann

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The Life of Saint Ann By Father Peter Grace, C.P. The Revelation of James Christians, from the earliest times had an interest in knowing more about Jesus' family, especially about his mother and his grandmother. Ann is the name of the Jewish woman who was Jesus' grandmother. Ann is the virgin Mary's mother. We know nothing about Ann from the Bible. A third century greek manuscript called the revelation of James tells a fictional story about Mary and her parents Joachim and Ann. The story w
  The Life of Saint Ann By Father Peter Grace, C.P. The Revelation of James Christians, from the earliest times had an interest in knowing moreabout Jesus' family, especially about his mother and his grandmother. Annis the name of the Jewish woman who was Jesus' grandmother. Ann is the virgin Mary's mother. We know nothing about Ann from the Bible. A third century greek manuscript called the revelation of James tellsa fictional story about Mary and her parents Joachim and Ann. The story was probably written around the year 160 a.d. by a non-Jewish Christian.Simple Way of Life Since history has not passed on anything extraordinary about the lifeof Saint Ann it is safe to assume that she led the life of a typical Jewishwoman of her time. What we see in many present day third world countries perhaps gives us some insight into the simple way of life of the womanknown today as Saint Ann.I myself suppose that she spent much of her time with household choresand the needs of her family. I spent a number of years in Africa and inIndia, and I noticed that even today in those countries women are very busy from morning to night. You see them early in the morning walking toget water from a river, a well, or some other water supply. You can seethem washing their infants, combing a daughter's hair, gathering wood and sticks to make a fire for cooking. During the day, women will gather food from their gardens and go to the town market to buy and sell vegetables,fruits, and dried fish. They assemble at grinding mills with bags of cornor kernels of wheat to have them ground into flour. Often they will perform their daily routine with a child perched on their backs and afew more children at their side. Usually you see women walking along ina small procession of relatives or neighbors. They will prepare anafternoon meal and sometimes bring it to their husbands at work in thefields. They will help raise the chickens, rabbits and goats, will milkthe cow, and in the late afternoon when it is cool will go out into thefields along with their husbands to spade and hoe the land, plant seeds,and pick the corn or harvest the rice. When passing a friend or neighbor'shouse, they'll often stop for tea, or buttermilk, or enjoy some home-made beer or alcoholic beverage. Jewish Heritage This daily routine is spiced with moments of great enjoyment and greatsadness. There are celebrations for births and marriage, and sad gatherings for times of sickness and death. Nature brings days of hot sunand nights with cool breezes. There are seasons of torrential rain that make the land rich and green and then seemingly endless periods of droughtthat turn the whole earth into a parched, barren brown wasteland. There are  no phones, no TV's, there is a lot of time to sit around as a family, walkover to your neighbor, tell stories, sing songs, and to pray to the God ofearth and sky.We must also remember that St Ann was thoroughly Jewish and enjoyed all the cultural, political, and religious customs of Israel. She was awife and mother and became the proud grandmother of the most beautifulgrandson the world has ever known.  Ancient Story  According to the ancient story called the Gospel of James , Ann the mother of Mary, was born in Bethlehem, where, years later, Jesus would  be born. She married Joachim from Nazareth in Galilee. Their marriage was blessed in many ways. They loved each other very much and over the yearstheir love only grew stronger. The couple prospered when they moved toJerusalem. Joachim, a shepherd who owned a large herd of sheep, wasgiven the task of supplying the temple in Jerusalem with sheep for itssacrifices from his flocks, which grazed in the hills nearby the city.Unfortunately, after twenty years of marriage Ann and Joachim had nochildren. They prayed and prayed, and even vowed to dedicate to God any child they would have. Year after year they entered the Templeto plead with God for help. But no child came.Once, when Joachim went to the Temple for the feast of Dedication,he overheard someone ridiculing him for not being able to father achild. Stung by the remark, he went out into the hill country nearJerusalem where shepherds tended his flocks and cried to God overhis disappointment of so many years.  Angel's Message  After many days there alone, pouring out the sadness in his heart before God, an angel appeared to Joachim in dazzling light. The visionfrightened him, but the angel said: Don't be afraid. I have come to tell you the Lord has heard your prayers. He knows how good you are and he knows your manyyears of sorrow for having no child. God will give your wifea child just as he did Sarah, the wife of Abraham, and Anna,the mother of Samuel. Your wife Ann will bear you a daughter.You shall call her Mary and dedicate her to God, for she willbe filled with the Holy Spirit from her mother's womb. I will give you a sign , the angel continued. Go back toJerusalem. You will meet your wife at the Golden Gate, and yoursorrow will be turned into joy. Meanwhile, Ann, not knowing where her husband had gone, grew anxiousand afraid. She, too, was hurt that she had no children and felt as thoughshe were being punished by God. Going into the garden, she noticed somesparrows building a nest in a laurel tree, for it was springtime, and she began to cry: Why was I born, O Lord? The birds build nests for their youngyet I have no child of my own. The animals of the earth, thefish of the sea are fruitful, yet I have nothing. The land  produces fruit in due season, but I have no infant to hold in my arms. Suddenly, the angel of the Lord came to her and said, Ann, the Lord has heard your prayer. You shall conceive a child whom the whole world   will praise. Go to the Golden Gate in Jerusalem and meet your husband there. So she quickly went to the city gate. The two met there and embraced,and joyfully shared the news the angel had given them. Returning home, Annconceived and bore a daughter, and called her Mary. Mary was a common namefor Jewish women of the time. The name is derived from Miriam, who was thesister of Moses. Perhaps the Jewish people then, longing for someone like Moses to lead them from their long slavery to foreigners like the Greeksand the Romans, chose that name for so many of their daughters, hoping thata new Moses would come and find another Miriam at his side. Dedication in the Temple  When Mary was three years old, her parents presented her in the Templein Jerusalem as a gift to the Lord. Their family then lived close bythat great center of Jewish life. Even from her first days, Mary as achild seemed to know that her life was to serve God. The temple of God so near her home was a place she loved and there was nowhere else shewould rather be. So as a little girl just three years old, her parentswatched her ascend the fifteen great steps to the temple courtyard and approach the altar of sacrifice. God was there and she wished to be nearhim. And that is what her parents, Ann and Joachim wished, that theirdaughter be near her God. The early story says that mary spent most ofher childhood in that holy place. Mary's Marriage to Joseph  When Mary was 14, the age Jewish girls married at that time, she wondered what her future would be. Her parents knew their child had a special placein God's plan, but what it was they did not know. They began to arrangefor her marriage, as customary in those days, and sought advice from theJewish high priest himself. After praying for guidance, the high priestcalled every unmarried man from the tribe of David to come to the templewith a branch from the fields and lay it on the altar. The one whose branchflowered, he decided, would marry Mary.Joseph was among those who came at the high priest's call, but he broughtno branch with him. Yet God pointed him out as the one who should be Mary'shusband. When Joseph finally placed a branch on the altar, it immediatelyflowered. The two were betrothed in marriage and Mary returned to her parent's home at Nazareth to wait some months and to prepare for thewedding. While she was there, the angel Gabriel appeared to her and announced that she was to be the mother of Jesus. By the power of theHoly Spirit she conceived the Child. After Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph returned to Nazareth where they would live and bring up theiryoung son. Ann and Joachim visited them there and helped to care forthe child. They told Jesus many stories about Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, Moses and the ten commandments. They watched Jesus play and walk, they fed him his favorite meals, bathed him, and gently rocked him to sleep. When Ann and Joachim died, or where, we do not know, none ofthe ancient stories tell us. But a later tradition says, and we can believe that it is true, that Jesus was with Ann and Joachim when they passed away.The story of Jesus' mother and grandmother as written in theGospel of James was very popular among early Christians. It had a great influence on Christian worship, art and devotion. Around the year 550 a church in honor of Saint Ann was built in Jerusalem near the temple area on the site where Ann, Joachim and their  daughter Mary were believed to have lived. In the 6th century thechurches in the East celebrated two Feasts honoring Mary based onthe story: Mary's birth and her presentation in the Temple. Sincethe 7th century the Greek and Russian Churches have celebrated feasts in honor of Saint Joachim and Ann, the conception of Saint Ann,and the feast of Saint Ann. The western churches have celebrated thefeast of Saint Ann since the 16th century.  Devotion to Saint Ann Devotion to Saint Ann grew in Europe through a popular Frenchtradition. The French believed that Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, Martha,and other friends of Jesus crossed the Mediterranean Sea and landed atthe southern French city of Marseilles where they spread the news aboutJesus' death and resurrection. According to this tradition Mary Magdalene's group brought with them the remains of Saint Ann. According to the legend, the bishop, St Auspice, buried the body ofSt Ann in a cave under the church of St Mary in Apt. When barbariansinvaded that area, the cave was filled with debris, almost to beforgotten until it was dug out by miners 600 years later during thereign of Charlemagne. The Sailors and miners of the region around  Marseilles were very devoted to Saint Ann and their devotion spread to other parts of Europe and eventually to the New World. The ancientshrines of St. Ann in Jerusalem and in Apt, France still exist. Saint Ann is the patroness of Britanny in France, a land of sailors. Thegreat shrine of Sainte Anne d'Auray, founded in the 17th century, isone of the largest pilgrimage centers in Europe and is especially popularwith the Bretons of France. Settlers from that region brought theirdevotion to Canada where they established the shrine of Sainte Anne deBeaupre near Quebec in 1658. In 1905 American Passionist Priests and Brothers built a monastery in the mining center of Scranton,Pennsylvania and dedicated their foundation to Saint Ann.The monastery was built over a coal mine.On August 15, 1911 the monastery shook, cracked and split due to asevere mine subsidence. The community of priests moved out. But theyhad complete confidence that they would be able to come back again. Intheir words, Saint Ann will take care of her own. In a short time,with repairs, all was safe and the Passionists returned.Again on July 28, 1913, an even more menacing disturbance took place. A gigantic squeeze threatened to slide the whole monastery and churchdown the hill. Immediately the Passionists and the neighbors prayed forhelp through the intercession of Saint Ann. The next morning, on aninspection of the mines that run under the monastery, it was found that the slide had suddenly stopped, turned back and settled solidlyunder the monastery.So started the history of devotion to Saint Ann at Saint Ann's Shrinein Scranton. The magnificent structure which is now Saint Ann's MonasteryChurch was dedicated on April 2nd, 1929. Here, the weekly Saint Ann's Novena has continued every Monday throughout the years. More than 10,000 people per day attend the annual ten day Saint Ann's Solemn Novena which begins July 17th and ends on July 26th, the feast of Saint Ann. 
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