Who does not know about the great shrine of Ste. Anne de Beaupre in Canada, where miracles abound, where cured cripples leave their crutches, and where people come from thousands of miles to pray to the grandmother of Jesus?
At one time, July 26 was the feast of St. Ann only, but with the new calendar the two feasts of the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary have been joined and are celebrated today.
Our information about Mary's parents comes from an apocryphal Christian writing, the Protoevangelium Jacobi (or Proto-Gospel of James), written about the year 170. According to this story, Joachim was a prominent and respected man who had no children, and he and his wife, Ann, looked upon this as a punishment from God. In answer to their prayers, Mary was born and was dedicated to God at a very early age.
From this early Christian writing have come several of the feast days of Mary, particularly the Immaculate Conception, the Nativity of Mary, and her Assumption into Heaven. Very early also came feast days in honor of SS. Joachim and Ann, and in the Middle Ages numerous churches, chapels, and confraternities were dedicated to St. Ann. The couple early became models of Christian marriage, and their meeting at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem has been a favorite subject of Christian artists.
Ann is often shown in paintings with Jesus and Mary and is considered a subject that attracts attention, since Ann is the grandmother of Jesus. Her two great shrines — that of Ste. Anne d'Auray in Britanny, France, and that of Ste. Anne de Beaupre near Quebec in Canada — are very popular. We know little else about the lives of Mary's parents, but considering the person of Mary, they must have been two very remarkable people to have been given such a daughter and to have played so important a part in the work of the Redemption.
There is a church of St. Anne in Jerusalem and it is believed to be built on the site of the home of Sts. Joachim and Ann, when they lived in Jerusalem. [Father Clifford Stevens, The One Year Book of Saints]
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O Lord, God of our Fathers, who bestowed on Saints Joachim and Anne this grace, that of them should be born the Mother of your incarnate Son, grant, through the prayers of both, that we may attain the salvation you have promised to your people. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
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Throughout Canada, particularly in Quebec and among the Native Peoples, there has always been a vibrant devotion to Saint Ann. One such place is at the Shrine of St. Ann in Cormac, Ontario (in the Pembroke Diocese) about +/- two-and-a-half hours' drive west of Ottawa.
This July, I accepted to preach the feast day Mass tonight and the three addional days of the annual gathering, which will close on Sunday afternoon with Mass at 2:00PM (there is also an earlier Lord's Day Mass at 11 o'clock Sunday morning. presided by Bishop Michael Mulhall).
The other devotions begin with the Eucharist each evening (tonight [Thursday], Friday and Saturday at 7 o'clock): I will use the forthcoming Year of Faith to structure my presentations. Everyone is most welcome!
For further information and other details, including directions, please consult the Shrine's website: http://www.cormacpilgrimage.com/