July 26 is the feastday of Saint Ann, the mother of Our Blessed Lady. Since it fell on Sunday this year, it wasn’t celebrated by the universal Church. But because today doesn’t have a feast day of its own, I was able to celebrate what we call a “Votive Mass” in honor of Saints Ann and her husband, Joachim this morning. I have had the privilege of visiting the shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupre in the province of Quebec; it is the world’s principal shrine to Saint Ann. July 26 always brings back good memories of my visits there, especially my first one back in 1947 when I was in college.
I was spending a long weekend in Quebec after a marvelous ten days of music with the Trapp Family at their music camp in Stowe, Vermont. I took a bus from the hotel in Quebec out to Beaupre, down the Saint Lawrence River about 20 miles. As I attended Mass in the huge basilica and visited all the buildings connected with the shrine, I was somewhat surprised to hear the preachers and narrators talk about Saint Ann as “the Grandmother of Jesus.” Although I knew that she was the mother of Our Lady, I had never heard her referred to as “the Grandmother of Jesus.” But it’s perfectly true, and that title situates Our Lord within the context of our human family. Since he had a human mother, he also had human grandparents and relatives of various degrees of kinship. And it was in the womb of Saint Ann that the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady occurred.
So at this time of year, we have the opportunity to adore Our Divine Lord as our Human Lord also, a man who had a mother and grandparents, and who may well have learned much of what he humanly knew at the knee of his grandmother, Saint Ann. If you study the religious art of the Catholic countries like Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the Catholic Netherlands, you will find many statues and paintings of the Madonna and Child, and often with them there is the depiction of Saint Ann, too, just as grandmothers are so often found in the context of a young woman and her newly born child.
I remember so well an incident that occurred when I was about three. The doorbell rang one day, and there at the door was our mailman with a package. And the package was addressed to ME! It was the first time that that ever happened, and I was thrilled out of my mind! My mother pretended to share my terrific excitement, and we opened the package to find that it was from my grandmother who lived in a little town called Jeanerette, Louisiana. In the box were a pair of bed-socks that she had made for me out of warm flannel or some similar material, and a big Hershey chocolate bar. To think: the postman had brought a package to ME. Solid gold couldn’t have pleased me more.
Let us pray for our grandparents as we celebrate those of Our Divine Lord. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.