Today the church remembers two saints who we aren’t even sure existed, yet nevertheless hold an important (if figurative) place in the canon of Christianity: Saint Anne and Saint Joachim, Parents of Mary, the Mother of Our Lord.
Mirroring Abram and Sarai, Hannah, and Elizabeth and Zechariah, the lore on Anne and Joachim is that they reached an old age childless. Miraculously one day, Saint Anne was with child, and following in their faith ancestor’s footsteps, they raised the young girl (named Mary) in the temple to be taught by the priests.
Spoiler alert: this Mary would miraculously conceive Jesus and, well, you know the story.
We learn much of this from a second century apocryphal gospel of dubious authorship known as the Protoevangelium of James.
Nevertheless, the ancient world loved a good story, and this one fit the bill. The cult of Saint Anne grew and spread and really rooted itself in the mid 6th Century when Justinian I in Constantinople built the first church dedicated to her. When the details of these two saints became fleshed out and the immaculate conception of Mary (December 8th) was formalized, there was no looking back: Saint Anne would be assumed real, and would be really loved by many Christians.
In fact, our own Blessed Martin Luther loved Saint Anne so much, it was to her that he prayed when he felt his life was in trouble, promising her that, should he live, he’d become a monk.
In other words: the Reformation may never had happened had Saint Anne not been on Luther’s mind (though, perhaps he would have prayed to some other saint…who knows?).
Saint Joachim, like his son-in-law Joseph, takes the back seat in the lore. In fact, nothing else is really said about him other than he and Anne were together, he was old, and he had no children before Mary.
Saint Anne and Saint Joachim are important, though, because it just hammers home how much we love and adore lineage and tradition and long for meaning beyond meaning.
I mean, what are humans but meaning-making mortals?
-info gleaned from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations