The feast honoring the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated on the day that the basilica in honor of St. Anne was dedicated in Constantinople in the year 550. Her feast has been observed in the West since the time of the Crusades in the thirteenth century. The feast of St. Joachim was introduced in the West only in 1584, and when the two feasts were combined, the date was fixed at July 26. The feast of Joachim and Anne is on the General Roman Calendar and is also observed in the Anglican Communion by the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the USA.
In the Scriptures, Matthew and Luke furnish a legal family history of Jesus, tracing ancestry to show that Jesus is the culmination of great promises. Not only is his mother’s family neglected, we also know nothing factual about them except that they existed.
Details about Joachim and Anne are found only in the apocryphal writing that became popular in the Middle Ages, the Protoevangelium of St. James, the legendary source which dates back to approximately 165. It states that Mary’s birth was miraculous because her parents were sterile, and that an angel predicted her birth to Joachim after he had fasted for forty days in the desert. For centuries the popular tradition about St. Joachim and St. Anne has inspired Christians with a message of God’s tender love. It still inspires us today.
The heroism and holiness of these people, however, is inferred from the whole family atmosphere around Mary in the Scriptures. Whether we rely on the legends about Mary’s childhood or make guesses from the information in the Bible, we see in her a fulfillment of many generations of prayerful persons, herself steeped in the religious traditions of her people. Joachim and Anne represent that entire quiet series of generations who faithfully perform their duties, practice their faith, and establish an atmosphere for the coming of the Messiah, but remain obscure.
“The family is the foundation of society. In it the various generations come together and help one another to grow wise and to harmonize personal rights with the other requirements of social life” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 52).
Foley, Leonard, O.F.M., and Pat McCloskey, O.F.M. “Saint of the Day-Updated and Expanded.” Cincinnati: Franciscan Media, 2013.
Lodi, Enzo. “Saints of the Roman Calendar-Updated and Revised Edition.” New York: Alba House, 2012.
McBrien, Richard P. “Lives of the Saints.” New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2003.