St. Anne: Grandmother of the Church & Catholic Saint of Fertility

catholic saint of fertility

St. Anne’s feast day is celebrated on July 26 (the post-Conciliar calendar is a dual commemoration with her spouse Joachim). St Anne, aside from being the grandmother of the Church, is also known as a Catholic Saint of fertility.

The Eastern Church, which has many devotions to St. Anne, makes its commemoration on July 25. Both the Nativity of Mary and the Presentation of Mary are celebrated as two of the twelve Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church.

I had previously published an article on St. Kateri Tekakwitha after reading up on my youngest daughter’s patron saint. It’s a given that as a parent what you do for one child you would do the other. So I knew that I had to read up on my older daughter’s patron saint, St. Anne, for the upcoming feast day. Conveniently, St. Anne is also of interest to me as the patron saint of my home diocese of Detroit! This derives in part from the first church in Detroit being founded as St. Anne de Detroit in 1701.

ANNE, THE LADYMAKER

St. Anne is also known for her patronage of grandmothers, as our Lord’s grandmother, among other things.  One of my daughter’s (adopted) grandmothers name is named Ardith, but sometimes she went by the nickname Anne. My daughter’s affection and honor for her inspired her to take St. Anne as her confirmation name. 

One could easily imagine that “Anne” followed in the footsteps of her namesake. My mother-in-law was the prototypical grandmother. Like Ann, she was very lady-like, spoke softly and kindly and never gossiped. She had a spirit of tranquility and a natural inclination to diffuse tension. She never raised her voice because she was measured with her words, but when she did need to speak sternly, it had impact. Like Anne and Joachim, she and her husband were generous to others and lived simply and well within their means.

As someone who lived through through the Depression and lost her mother as a child and later a son to cancer at an early age, she knew a life of suffering but endured it with charity and perseverance. Please take a moment to pray for the repose of her soul. Requiescat in Pace, Ardith.

We don’t know much about St. Anne with certainty as she isn’t directly mentioned in Scripture. We can infer that her (and Joachim’s) absence in the Gospels meant that our Lord’s grandparents died young. Most of what we know historically was garnered from the Protoevangelium of James). Since this writing is outside the canon of Sacred Scripture, however, we cannot be sure it was guarded from error. The most significant thing about her was her great holiness and favor that led to her participation with Joachim in the Immaculate Conception and her very early formation of the Blessed Mother.

ANNE – A CONTEMPLATIVE SOUL

We have a reliable account of additional details about St. Anne from a private revelation given to use by Ven. Mary of Agreda (Mystical City of God). The quotes in the rest of this article are from that revelation.

The most fortunate Anne had a house in Bethlehem and was a most chaste, humble and beautiful maiden. From her childhood she led a most virtuous, holy and retired life, enjoying great and continual enlightenment in exalted contemplation. She was most diligent and industrious, thus attaining perfection in both the active and contemplative life. She had an infused knowledge of the divine Scriptures and a profound understanding of its hidden mysteries and sacraments. In the infused virtues of faith, hope and love she was unexcelled. Equipped with all these gifts, she continued to pray for the coming of the Messiah. Her prayers were so acceptable to the Lord, that to her He could but answer with the words of the Spouse: “Thou hast wounded my heart with one of the hairs of thy neck” (Canticle of Canticles 4:9).

Mystical City of God, Volume I: The Conception

ST ANNE’S PRAYER FOR A HUSBAND

St Anne prayed most fervently for a spouse who would help her observe the Jewish law and be perfect in the fulfillment of its precepts. At the moment that Anne thus prayed to the Lord, through ordained Providence, the righteous man Joachim made the same petition. These prayers were presented before the holy Trinity, heard and fulfilled.  The archangel Gabriel was sent to announce it to Anne. When she saw the angel, she was frightened and yet at the same time illuminated with rejoicing. Gabriel told her:

His Majesty has heard thy petitions and He wishes thee to persevere therein and that thou continue to clamor for the coming of the Redeemer. It is His will, that thou accept Joachim as thy spouse, for he is a man of upright heart and acceptable to the Lord.

With these words, the angel disappeared, leaving her enlightened in many mysteries of Holy Scripture and renewed in spirit. The Lord installed in the holy Matron Anne many virtues, communicating to her the graces and infused science to prepared her for the destiny of becoming the worthy mother of Her, who was to be the Mother of God.

A CATHOLIC SAINT OF FERTILITY STRUGGLES WITH INFERTILITY

The reason that St Anne is Catholic Saint of fertility is because Joachim and Anne, united in marriage by divine appointment, passed twenty years of their life without a child, until the Lord blessed then with their daughter Mary.

Among the superstitious Jews, infertility was considered a deserved misfortune if not a disgrace. Because of this, they had to bear the indignities and disapproval from other Jews. This included being admonished by a least one priest of the temple for Joachim presuming to come with the others who had children to make their offerings. Joachim and Anne made a solemn vow to the Lord, that if He should give them a child, they would be consecrated to His service in the temple.

ST. ANNE’S FERTILITY PRAYER 

Having recognized the will of God and that of her husband Joachim, she prayed with humble subjection and confidence that it be fulfilled:

Most high God, my Lord, Creator and Preserver of the universe, whom my soul reveres as the true God, infinite, holy and eternal!  Prostrate in thy real presence I will speak, though I am but dust and ashes proclaiming my need and my affliction. Lord God uncreated, make us worthy of thy benediction, and give us holy fruit of the womb, in order that we may offer it to thy service in the temple. Remember, O Lord, that Anne, thy servant, the mother of Samuel (Hannah), was sterile and that by thy generous mercy she received the fulfillment of her desires. I feel within me a courage which incites and animates me to ask Thee to show me the same mercy.

Hear then, O sweetest Lord and Master, my humble petition: remember the sacrifices, offerings and services of my ancestors and the favors, which thy almighty arm wrought in them. I wish to offer to Thee, O Lord, an oblation pleasing and acceptable in thy eyes: but the greatest in my power, is my soul, my faculties and inclinations given to Thee, and my whole being. If Thou look upon me from thy throne giving me issue, I will from this moment sanctify and offer it for thy service in the temple. Lord God of Israel, if it should be thy pleasure and good will to look upon this lowly and impoverished creature, and to console thy servant Joachim, grant me my prayer and may in all things be fulfilled thy holy and eternal will.

THE MOST HOLY TRINITY RESPONDS TO ST ANNE’S FERTILITY PRAYER

This holy petition of prayer (and Joachim’s prayers and sacrifices) reached the sovereign throne of God and were found pleasing and timely. The Blessed Trinity thus spoke to the holy angels:

Joachim and Anne have found grace in our eyes; We look upon them with pleasure and shall enrich them with choicest gifts and graces. They have been faithful and constant in their trials and in simplicity and uprightness their souls have become acceptable and pleasing before Us. Let Gabriel as our ambassador bring tidings of joy for them and for the whole human race; let him announce to them, that in our condescension We have looked upon them and chosen them.

The Divine voice then continued its instruction to the Archangel Gabriel:

Gabriel, enlighten, vivify and console Joachim and Anne, our servants, and tell them, that their prayers have come to our presence and their petitions are heard in clemency. Promise them, that by the favor of our right hand they will receive the Fruit of benediction, and that Anne shall conceive a Daughter, to whom We give the name of MARY.

AN ANGELIC ANNE-NUNCIATION

The Archangel Gabriel then appeared to Joachim in a dream and told him that Anne would conceive a child who would be exalted, powerful and full of the Spirit of God. Gabriel would also appear to Anne while she was enrapt in prayer and contemplation. Not unlike the Annunciation, Gabriel made known her nearing conception:

The humility, faith and the alms of Joachim and of thyself have come before the throne of the Most High and now He sends me, his angel, in order to give thee news full of joy for thy heart: His Majesty wishes, that thou be most fortunate and blessed. He chooses thee to be the mother of Her who is to conceive and bring forth the Onlybegotten of the Father. Thou shalt bring forth a Daughter, who by divine disposition shall be called MARY…Know also that I have announced to Joachim, that he shall have a Daughter who shall be blessed and fortunate: but the full knowledge of the mystery is not given him by the Lord, for he does not know, that She is to be the Mother of the Messiah.

ST. ANNE’S FIAT

St. Anne responds to God with utmost humility and submissiveness:

I acknowledge myself, O Lord, a creature unworthy of such mercies and benefits. …Use me, O Lord, according to thy will, since to it I resign myself entirely. I wish to be as completely thy own as such a favor requires; but what shall I do, who am not worthy to be the slave of Her who is to be the Mother of the Onlybegotten and my Daughter? This I know and shall confess always: that I am a poor creature; but at the feet of thy greatness I await the course of thy mercy, who art a kind Father and the all-powerful God. Make me, O Lord, worthy in thy eyes of the dignity Thou bestows upon me.

Mary of Agreda tells us that Anne conceived when she was 44 years old. As soon as the miracle of this Conception was completed, the holy matron was returned to her former state of sterility never to conceive again.

After the conception but before the infusion of the soul, Anne was given the favor of an intellectual and exalted vision of the Divinity. She achieved union with God and therefore God was able to speak with her directly, confirming that Mary was the Immaculate Conception and Mother of the coming Redeemer of Man. She also instructs that the day celebrated for the Immaculate Conception was the day of the infusion of the soul on the seventh day after the conception. Due to the particular graces and exalted matter of the divine union of Anne and Joachim, the infusion of Mary’s soul occurred much more rapidly than for ordinary mortals.

Mystical City of God

THE DEVIL TEMPTS ST. ANNE

During the pregnancy, the mystic recounts that Lucifer took notice of this woman of great holiness. He perceived a powerful influence from St. Anne but could not discern its nature, causing him rage and fury. Satan also wondered why many angels stood at attendance around the holy matron. The mystic recounts:

Audaciously therefore he set himself to tempt holy Anne, with many suggestions, misgivings, doubts and diffidences about the truth of her pregnancy, alleging her protracted years. All this the demon attempted in order to test the virtue of the saint, and to see, whether these temptations would not afford some opening for the perversion of her will. But the invincible matron resisted these onslaughts with humble fortitude, patience, continued prayer and vivid faith in the Lord. She brought to naught the perplexing lies of the dragon and on account of them gained only additional grace and protection from on high. For besides the protection abundantly merited by her past life, she was defended and freed from the demons by the great princes, who were guarding her most holy Daughter.

Satan ordered demons to try to overthrow their holy dwelling in order to induce shock and a possible miscarriage. However, the attack was repelled by the attendant holy angels.

Having failed, he then incited and possessed women acquaintances to quarrel with and scorn at the pregnancy of her advanced years. Blessed Anne did not permit herself to be disturbed by this attack, but in all meekness and humility bore the injuries and treated her assailants with kindness. From that time, on she looked with greater love upon these women and lavished upon them so much the greater benefits.

They made many unsuccessful plots and schemes against St. Anne. They were not only overcome by her admonitions but were brought to an amending of their life by her prayers.

The devil then possessed the female servant of their household, acting even more stubbornly and dangerously against her masters. However, the attendant angels, chosen from among strongest of the Heavenly host, cast out Lucifer and his demons. For the remaining duration of her pregnancy, she remained unmolested by the evil minions.

THE BIRTH OF OUR LADY & ST ANNE’S CANTICLE

At midnight of September 8, Anne gave birth to the mother of our Lord. We are told that the time signified the transition from the Old Law to the New Law. Due to their means and the providence of God, she was free from the toils and labors that other mothers would usually endure in such circumstances and was able to give all her attention to the new child.

St. Anne, in thanksgiving, offered the following prayer as she held the newborn child:

Lord of infinite wisdom and power, Creator of all that exists, this Fruit of my womb, which I have received of thy bounty, I offer to Thee with eternal thanks, for without any merit of mine Thou hast vouchsafed it to me … I tender my congratulations to my holy forefathers and to the holy Prophets, and in them to the whole human race, for this sure pledge of Redemption, which Thou hast given them. But how shall I be able worthily to treat Her, whom Thou hast given me as a Daughter? I that am not worthy to be her servant? How shall I handle the true ark of the Testament? Give me, O my Lord and King, the necessary enlightenment to know thy will and to execute it according to thy pleasure in the service of my Daughter.

The Lord sent angelic spirits on the eighth day after the birth to announce that the child’s name as decreed in heaven would be Mary.

MARY WAS A BABY BLOOMER

According to the Jewish law prescribed in Leviticus, Anne observed the 66-day ritual of purification (for a baby girl). She went to the temple with her offering and met the priest Simeon. The blessed mother Anne entered the temple carrying her most holy Daughter and devoutly offered Her to the Lord. The devil observed this but was deceived into thinking it was acts of piety from an ordinary woman.

As a baby, Mary was quiet and reserved of speech. Her first spoken words to her parents asked them of their blessing. It is told that the heavenly child listened to and asked many questions of her mother, showing a desire for learning and wisdom. All this before being dedicated to the Lord in the Temple at the tender age of three!

The Holy Matron experienced turmoil in her soul at the loss of her daughter when it was time to take her to the temple at age three. However, the holy matron showed Herself prepared and ready to execute the command of the Almighty, and she answered full of submission by the following prayer:

Lord God, Master of all my being, I have pledged to Thy service and to the temple my Daughter, whom Thou, in thy ineffable mercy, hast given me: She is thine, and I return Her to Thee with thanks for the time in which I have enjoyed Her, for having been chosen to conceive Her and assist in Her formation. But remember, God and Lord, that in the keeping of Thy inestimable Treasure I was rich; I enjoyed Her company in this desert valley of tears, She was the joy of my sorrow, the alleviation of my labors, the mirror for the regulation of my life, the example of a supernal perfection, which stimulated my remissness and enkindled my affections. Through that Creature alone have I hoped for mercy and grace and I fear, that in being deprived of Her, I will fall away from all thy grace. Heal, O Lord, the wound of my heart, and deal with me not as I have deserved, but look upon me as a kind Father of mercies, while I bring my Daughter to the temple according to Thy command.


ANNE’S LATER UN-MARY’D LIFE

The young child Mary would then be raised in the temple under the care of a Jewish prophetess, also named Anne. She would lose her husband Joachim six months later. Anne stood at his bedside at his final hours and overhead the holy converse between the angels and Joachim, where it was finally revealed to him that his daughter would bear the Messiah!

We know nothing more of Anne from the mystic’s account until her approaching death when Mary had passed her twelfth year. When the angels told of the impending death, Mary prayed fervently for her mother to have a happy death. The Lord received these prayers and responded with a special favor: the holy angels transported Mary to be with Anne in her final throes of death. Mary kissed the hand of Anne tenderly and asked for one last blessing and then prayed for the consolation of her mother’s soul as she would be conveyed to the limbo of the fathers.

St. Anne answered with a return of great love and joy:

Mary, my beloved Daughter, fulfill now thy obligation by not forgetting me in the presence of our Lord God and Creator and reminding Him of the need I have of his protection in this hour. Remember what thou owes to her, who has conceived Thee and bore Thee in her womb nine months, who after wards nourished Thee at her breast and has always held Thee in her heart. Beseech the Lord, my Daughter, that He extend a hand of mercy toward me, his useless creature, who has her beginning only through his mercies, and that I may receive his blessing in this hour of my death; for I place my confidence and have always placed it altogether in his holy name. Do not leave me, my Beloved, before Thou hast closed my eyes…

Pray that, if it be his will to give Thee a spouse, he may be of the tribe of Judah and of the race of David. The possessions of thy father Joachim and of myself, which shall belong to Thee, share with the poor, with whom thou should deal in loving generosity. Keep thy secret hidden within thy Bosom and ask the Omnipotent without ceasing to show his mercy by sending His salvation and redemption through His promised Messiah. Ask and beseech his infinite bounty to be thy protection, and may His blessing come over Thee together with mine.

At the age of 56, St. Anne died, and carrying “The Secret” with her to her grave. Her most holy soul was thence conveyed by the angels to the bosom of Abraham, where she was received and reverenced by all the Patriarchs, Prophets and the just, who were waiting in that place.

ANNE…THAT’S ALL SHE WROTE

In the mystic’s account of the child Mary’s formation in the temple, she mused often from her meditations on Scripture about the Redeemer being born of mankind but was kept from knowing that she was the chosen one.

The mystic made it clear that no revelations were given to her pertaining to Anne being remarried and having other children that became Mary’s sisters as referenced in other apocryphal accounts or by other revelations. She does not deny the possibility but asserts it was not revealed as necessary to understand Mary’s exalted place as the Mother of God. She concludes with a final word of the holy matron:

Because of her having such a Daughter and of her being the grandmother of the Word made man, all the nations may call the most fortunate saint Anne blessed.

After marrying, Joseph and Mary would divide the estate of Joachim and Anne: one-third was given to the temple, one-third to the poor and one-third Joseph kept for future household expenses and alms.

St Anne Sterling Silver Medal

ANNE, THE BABYMAKER & CATHOLIC SAINT OF FERTILITY

Anne and Joachim are best known as the patrons of fertility, particularly those couples that trying to conceive later in life, and by extension, troubled pregnancies. Both were model examples of the utility of long unanswered and persistent prayers. Couples may consider using the prayer above as part of their novena of prayers asking God to provide a child. If you peruse any number of novena-related blogs regarding St. Anne, you will find a number of heart-warming stories of conceptions occurring, many on the feast day or at or near the final day of the novena. For example, one testimony stated:

My son and daughter-in-law had been trying for a while to conceive. We were getting worried because it wasn’t happening, and they’re getting on in years, especially for a first baby. I prayed the St. Anne novena on the advice of a friend, that they be blessed soon with a baby. It’s now been confirmed that she conceived on July 26, the feast of St Anne and final day of the Novena. They are not aware that I prayed this Novena; I will eventually tell them and spread the word as well. I consider it a miracle, both because of the positive result, as well as the timing.

www.praymorenovenas.com

It is also suitable to invoke St. Anne’s intercession in those things that precede children: finding a spouse and working out difficult or stalled relationships. Given the projections of falling fertility rates and a looming population crash, we could use more babies!

ANNE, THE NAMESAKER

According to catholicculture.org, in the eighteenth century, the name “Anne,” which means “grace,” gained in popularity as a favorite name for girls. By the start of the nineteenth century, it was the most popular girls’ name in central Europe, surpassing even that of Mary. This was attributed in part to the popular saying “All Annes are beautiful.” Parents ascribed this to their baby daughters by calling them Anne or by adding Anne to follow a first name, resulting in traditional names such as Mary Ann, Marianne, Marian, Joanne, Elizabeth Ann etc.

If your prayers to St. Anne result in a baby girl, consider adding Anne to the name of your baby girl to commemorate the divine favor! As noted above (St. Anne’s Fertility Prayer), the name Hannah also prefigures and references St. Anne. If it’s a boy, consider working Joachim (or perhaps the more common Spanish derivation Joaquin) into the name somehow!


Pray for us, good St. Anne, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Burdened with life’s difficulties, we place ourselves before you, and ask that you assist us with the petitions and intentions we now recommend to your special protection.

Gracious God, who chose St. Anne to bring into the world the mother of Your only Son. Mercifully grant to us who devoutly honor her memory, the grace of happiness in this life, and the joy of life with You for all eternity. Amen.


Joseph Burley

More on St Anne


See Also

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