Imagine having to learn Scripture, not through paging through the pages of your Bible, but by walking into your church and viewing its artwork. The Legend of St. Joachim, Meeting at the Golden Gate is a fresco painted by one of Italy’s most remarkable painters of the 14th century, Giotto di Bondone. Giotto is known for his beautiful panel paintings done by Fresco. During the 1300s, most of Europe was unable to read, nor did they have easy access to the Bible which at the time, was written by hand. Giotto’s artwork served as illustrations for Scripture, a visual aid for people to understand and enter into the Bible’s stories.
The Legend of the Golden Gate
This illustration by Giotto shows the story of Saints Joachim and Anne. The legend goes that while Joachim was traveling, an angel appeared to him, telling him to meet his wife Anne at the golden gate in Jerusalem. The angel brought Joachim an answer to his prayers and told him that his wife had conceived. The same angel then gave this message to Anne and departed from her. They then joyously met one another at the gate, embracing and kissing one another.
While what we know about these two Saints is passed on through tradition and legend, it is believed that they suffered the cross of infertility for years before they conceived their daughter Mary. Through their patience and faith, we can turn to these two Saints when we are striving to live more fully in the present moment and trust in God’s plan.
The Home of Saints Joachim and Anne
Upon entering the Old City of Jerusalem there is a Romanesque church which can be found just inside the Muslim Quarter. This is the site of the beautiful and well-maintained Crusader Church of Saint Anne. The church is known for its spectacular acoustics that resound off the austere stone walls, making one quiet voice amplified as it bounces off every crevice.
Below the church is where historians believe that Jesus’ grandparents lived and where Mary grew up. As you walk into the church there are stone steps which lead down to the crypt chapel. While today it looks like a cave, this is where you can see the remnants of Saints Joachim and Anne’s home.
Just a few steps away from Saint Anne’s you will find the Pools of Bethesda. This is the spot where Jesus healed the paralytic in the Gospel of John, telling him to rise up and walk. The home where Mary grew up is also near the start of the Via Dolorosa, or Stations of the Cross. This paralytic was asked to take up his mat and walk while Jesus was asked to take up the cross and walk. A walk which would lead to the healing and transformation of all of us who are paralyzed by sin.
Today the Church of Saint Anne is entrusted to The White Fathers who carry with them the mission of passing on the Faith through evangelization and education. The White Fathers are continuing the same task of Jesus’ grandparents. Mary’s parents raised their daughter with a solid formation and reading of Scripture. They provided her with a faith she could pass on to her own Son. We must not forget the important role that Mary’s parents had in her upbringing.
Even Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has addressed the significance and value of the family and the role that grandparents play. He said:
Thinking of grandparents, of their testimony of love and fidelity to life, reminds us of the Biblical figures of Abraham and Sarah, of Elizabeth and Zechariah, of Joachim and Anne, as well as of the elderly Simeon and Anna and even Nicodemus: they all remind us that at every age the Lord asks each one for the contribution of his or her own talents.
Again, we can call on the intercession of Saints Joachim and Anne to help us rise up to the occasion of sharing the Good News of the Gospel.
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A “Catholic” Grandparents Day
One of the great joys of our Catholic Faith is celebrating the great faith of the Saints who intercede for us from Heaven today. Here are a few ideas inspired by teachingcatholickids.com for celebrating the Feast of Saints Joachim and Anne. You can participate in these activities whether you are single, married, or have children.
- If your grandparents live nearby, invite them over for a meal and go for a walk outside afterwards.
- If you live too far away from your grandparents to join them for a meal, give them a call or send them a card, thanking them for the gift that they have been in your life. Are you looking for some wise counsel? Consider asking them some of your own life questions.
- Reach out to an elderly neighbor or visit them in a nursing home. If you have children, have them design cards which they can bring along as gifts.
- Another fun activity you can do with children is to color this Saints Joachim and Anne coloring page and send it to grandparents.
- Finally, pray for your grandparents. Here is a beautiful prayer written by Pope Benedict XVI. I included a part of it below!
A Prayer for Grandparents
you were born of the Virgin Mary,
the daughter of Saints Joachim and Anne.
Look with love on grandparents the world over.
Protect them! They are a source of enrichment
for families, for the Church and for all of society.
Support them! As they grow older,
may they continue to be for their families
strong pillars of Gospel faith,
guardians of noble domestic ideals,
living treasuries of sound religious traditions.
Make them teachers of wisdom and courage,
that they may pass on to future generations the fruits
of their mature human and spiritual experience. Amen.
How will you celebrate the lives of Saints Joachim and Anne? What intentions do you want them to intercede for on your behalf? Entrust your heart to the parents who helped to form the Mother of God.
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