Although they are not mentioned in the Gospels, by ancient tradition we know the parents of Jesus’ mother Mary as Joachim and Anne. Today the Catholic Church celebrates their Memorial. Why have a feast celebrating a couple we know nothing about from the Gospels?
It happened that in close coincidence to my recognition that today is Anna and Joachim’s memorial, I read a blog post written last week by the eleven or twelve year-old son of some friends. (Yes, one of the blogs I try to read with some regularity is written by this incredibly thoughtful young man.) He was wondering what determined whether someone became what he termed an “individual intellectual.” It was not, he decided, primarily a function of either one’s own intelligence or their family’s economic level, but rather the priorities and values of one’s parents.
And my young friend’s realization helps answer why we honor Anne and Joachim. Yes, Mary was blessed by God; by Catholic teaching she was born without sin. But we know a lot of people with innate gifts and blessings who don’t use them well.
Today’s memorial recognizes that just as Mary and Joseph were instrumental in Jesus’ early growth and education, Anne and Joachim, by their values and teachings, helped Mary grow into the young woman who would say “Yes” to God’s enormous invitation to her to birth Jesus into the world. Anne and Joachim, by their priorities and values, raised a young woman able to ponder so many things in her heart that she could not completly understand. It was Anne and Joachim who taught Mary the courage that would later enable her to stand at the foot of the cross of her son.
May we teach our own children (biological or otherwise entrusted into our care) as well as Anne and Joachim taught Mary.