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  St. Anne, Mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary

July 26, 2015

Mother of the Mother of God

Today is the Feast of St. Anne, the mother of the Mother of God. She was married to St. Joachim, whose feast we will be celebrating next month. This loving couple had been happily married for many years, happy at least except for one thing. God had not blessed St. Anne with children, something which in the days of the Old Testament was looked upon as a curse. And even though she prayed and prayed for a child day and night, accompanying her pleadings with works of penance and mortification, in spite of all her tears, it seemed as though God would refuse to hear her prayers and that she would remain childless into her old age. Nevertheless, she persevered, and was eventually rewarded for her patience. She obtained the grace to become not just a mother, but the mother of the Mother of all mothers.

If we have been praying for something for a very long time, apparently without result, we are often tempted to give up. It’s obvious, we think, that God doesn’t want us to have whatever it is we’re praying for. And yet, if we think of St. Anne and her years-long mortifications and fasting and tears, we realize that this is not necessarily the case. God likes us to persevere in prayer, and so we should take our lesson from Our Lord’s grandmother today, and get back down on our knees to ask again. And keep getting back down on our knees until we receive a definitive answer to our prayers, whether it be ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

We should also remember that St. Anne did not limit herself to devout prayers, giving alms, and a lot of fasting and other penance. She also did something which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend you to do, and I’ll explain why in a moment. But she also sought a child from God by promises. Together with her husband, Anne made a vow that if God would give them the fruit of marriage, they would bring their child to the temple to serve God. We have to be very careful about making vows. St. Vincent Ferrer tell us that “Many souls are damned by promises and vows, making vows and not caring to fulfill them. It is a grave sin to break vows in any way, greater than homicide, because it is unfaithfulness.” And in the book of Ecclesiasticus, the wise man said: “If you have vowed any thing to God, defer not to pay it: for an unfaithful and foolish promise displeases him: but whatsoever you have vowed, pay it. And it is much better not to vow, than after a vow not to perform the things promised.” I knew an old gentleman once who loved his cup of coffee. But one day one of his sons was in a serious accident, and this man made a vow to God that he would never touch a drop of coffee again as long as he lived if God would grant his son to live. His prayer was answered, and he kept his word, never drinking coffee again for the rest of his life.

The vow of St. Anne and St. Joachim was solemnly and fervently made, and now, finally, things began to happen. Joachim went to Jerusalem, to give his offering in the temple. But the priest there refused to accept his offering, rebuking him openly, saying: “Joachim, it does not become thee, who art barren, to offer sacrifice with these others whom God hath blessed with fruit in Israel.” Poor Joachim was so ashamed with this public humiliation that he went home weeping, and, quietly taking his sheep with him, he went forth into the hills with the intention of living out the rest of his days alone, and never seeing his wife Anne again.

Poor Anne was very upset of course, and prayed again to God, saying: “Woe is me, Lord, for I am barren and may have no fruit, and now there’s more: my husband has left me, and I am a widow. Lord, have mercy of me.” Then as she thus prayed, an angel came to her and comforted her, and said: “Anne, be of good comfort. Thou shalt have a child such was never none like nor never shall be.” Then this same angel went to Joachim and told him the same thing, bidding him take a lamb and offer it to God in sacrifice. When he had done this he lay upon the earth from midday till evensong, praying and thanking God with all his might. The next day he headed for home. Meanwhile the angel went back to Anne and bade her go to the gate that was called the Golden Gate and wait for her husband there. When he arrived, she embraced him and said: “Lord, I thank thee highly, for I was a widow and now am a wife; I was barren and now I shall have a child; I was in woe and weeping, and now I shall be in gladness and rejoicing.”

And so was conceived Our Lady. That miraculous and immaculate conception of Blessed Mary, who for nine months dwelled in the womb of St. Anne, a perfect saint even before she was born. The prayers of Anne and Joachim had finally been answered, in God’s good time, in fact, with God’s perfect timing. Our Lady would be born so that she would be the right age herself to conceive the Messiah “in the fullness of time” as the Gospel tells us.

Has God not answered your prayers yet? Remember that God knows whether you are praying for something that will lead unto your salvation or unto your damnation. He knows best when to say ‘no’. But he also knows when is the best time to say ‘yes’. Perhaps not today, not this week, not this year. If he chooses to keep us waiting, we should remind ourselves that he knows better than we do when is the right time to give us a favorable answer. If we don’t have it yet, let’s give thanks to God that he is keeping something from us that we don’t belong having yet. For those who love God and do his will, everything works out for the best. Follow the example of patience that St. Anne gives us. Patience with persistence. If your prayer isn’t answered yet, keep asking. Don’t give up. The answer might be just around the corner.

And if that prayer is answered one day, don’t forget to fulfill any promises you might have made to God. Keep faith with God, who has now blessed you with the favour you requested. As soon as the Blessed Virgin was ready, St. Anne reminded her husband of the vow they had taken. Joachim replied that they must fulfill the vow immediately. He didn’t say, as St. Vincent Ferrer points out: “Let’s wait till she’s ten years old.” He didn’t say: “She’s better looking than I thought she would be. Let’s substitute another child that’s humpbacked and one-eyed.” No. Joachim and Anne immediately presented Mary their daughter to God in the temple, where she remained for ten continuous years in the service of God. The promise made to God was kept.

One last reminder, and that is to pray as Our Lord commanded us, in the words of the paternoster. “Thy will be done.” We want things, it’s true. We have our own will, we want the things that we want. And there’s nothing wrong with that, providing that what we want is what God also wants. We need to conform our will to God’s will so that he might answer our prayers like he answered those of his grandmother St. Anne. Not only did he give her the child she wanted, but a child “such was never none like nor never shall be”. This was God’s reward for her persistence and her patience and her faithfulness in keeping her vow. If we follow St. Anne in these virtues, persistence, patience and faithfulness, then surely we shall follow her in her reward. If only we could show the same trust in God’s will, surely God will not be outdone by our generosity and love, but will reward us beyond our wildest imagination, both here and hereafter.



 Sermons from the Chaplain