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Saint of the week

The saint who unmarried women pray to

A church was built in St Anne’s (July 26) honour in Jerusalem

By on Thursday, 17 July 2014

St Anne holds grapes in the St Anne Altarpiece by Quentin Massys in Brussels

St Anne holds grapes in the St Anne Altarpiece by Quentin Massys in Brussels

St Anne, of David’s house and line, was mother to the Blessed Virgin Mary and grandmother to Jesus Christ. Her name derives from the name Hannah, which means “grace”. Like her grandson, St Anne was born in Bethlehem. She married Joachim from Nazareth in Galilee. Joachim was a shepherd in charge of supplying the Temple of Jerusalem with sheep for sacrifices.

According to tradition, Anne and Joachim had been married for 20 years but still had no children. On overhearing people laughing at their childless state, Joachim is said to have gone into the desert to plead with God that they be sent a child. Following a period of fasting and prayer an angel appeared to him and told him that his wife would give birth to a child whom they should call Mary and dedicate to God.

Meanwhile, as St Anne was wondering what had happened to Joachim she she reflected on her barren state and cried out to the Lord: “Why was I born?” As she cried out an angel appeared and told her she would soon have a baby called Mary. When Anne and Joachim met each other at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem they both rejoiced. When Mary was born she was dedicated to God at the Temple. At the age of 14 she was betrothed to Joseph, and so the most important chapter in salvation history began.

Early Christians were very devoted to St Anne and a church was built in her honour in Jerusalem, believed to be near where Anne, Joachim and Mary lived. Since the seventh century the Greek and Russian Church have celebrated feasts honouring St Joachim and St Ann. The Western Church began to celebrate the feast of St Anne in the 16th century.

The patron saint of mothers and women in labour and miners, she is often depicted with Mary in her lap holding the infant Jesus. St Anne is also the patron saint of unmarried women, who are advised to pray: “St Anne, St Anne, find me a man.”

The devotion to St Anne as the patron of miners arises from the medieval comparison between the Virgin Mary and Christ and precious metals such as silver and gold. Anne’s womb was considered the source from which these precious metals were mined. St Anne is also seen as a protector from storms.