On this day we celebrate the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne.
Jesus' maternal grandparents are not mentioned in the Bible. The apocryphal Book of James, written in the 2nd century, relates the story of Joachim and Anne.
There are a few interesting details: Baby Mary could walk at the age of six months, and at the age of three she "danced with her feet" on the "third step of the altar" in "the temple of the Lord."
Joachim and Anne left their three-year-old with the priests, "and she received food from the hand of an angel."
When Mary was twelve, the priests became worried "lest she pollute the sanctuary of the Lord." So "the high priest took the vestment with the twelve bells and went in unto the Holy of Holies and prayed concerning her."
Twelve bells? In the last few days there have been reports of a discovery by Israeli archaeologists of a 2000-year-old bell found beneath Jerusalem's Old City.
"The tiny orb, just one centimeter in diameter, was likely an ornament on the clothes of a wealthy resident. The Book of Exodus mentions tiny golden bells sewn onto the hem of the robes of Temple priests, though it was not known if this bell was one of those."
Maybe it fell off the robe of Zacharias, the high priest who found a widower to marry the daughter of Joachim and Anne.
But why didn't Joachim and Anne arrange a marriage for their daughter, as all other observant Jews did? Catholic girls used to say a little prayer: "Good Saint Anne, find me a man." I thought that was because Anne and Joachim had found such a good husband for their daughter.
Whether or not Anne and Joachim were their real names, we know Mary had parents. I hope the story of her living in the temple and being fed by an angel is untrue. I hope she stayed at home with her parents. And I hope they lived long enough to enjoy their grandchildren.
In the People's Companion to the Breviary, by the Carmelites of Indianapolis, 1997, there are beautiful Intercessions for today's feast of Jesus' grandparents, including these:
"Bless all grandparents, living and dead; --may their goodness and wisdom continue to inspire and encourage us."
"Bless our children with the gift of time with their grandparents; --let them hear their history, the joys and sorrow of those who have given life to them."
"Grant to those who have no grandchildren the blessing of Saint Anne; --that they may 'grandparent' the children of their neighborhoods and those who need their love."
Click here for some images of St. Joachim and here for some images of St. Anne.
It's a good day to tell your children something about their grandparents and about their grandparents' grandparents. They will remember the stories. (Ancestry.com offers a 14-day free trial. You can discover a lot in fourteen days.)