Pope Francis declared the 4th Sunday of July as the world day for grandparents and the elderly, coinciding with the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne. Sure, there is a hallmark holiday of sorts in September, but this feast does well to put it into context. What a beautiful opportunity to take stock of the elders in our lives who have had a lasting impact on us, and continue to offer wisdom and love in the way that the Lord called this holy pair to demonstrate.
There is much to love about Saints Joachim and Anne:
- They are married Saints whose feast is celebrated together.
- They are the parents of the Immaculate Conception.
- Their tremendously important role in paving the way for Christ, is primarily behind-the-scenes.
Grandparenthood: A Unique Calling
“If I knew having grandkids could be this much fun, I would have had them first.”
If I had a nickel for every time I have heard the expression, I would have a tidy little sum. I love to hear the delight in the voices of those in the company of the next generation. There is a different emphasis, after all, a privileged role, that grandparents have. Rather than reinforcing bedtimes, driving carpool, and cooking dinner, they are in the unique position to be present without an agenda in a way that parents simply cannot.
I love the variety of names that Grandparents are known by: Gigi, Pops, Nana, Grandma, Grandpa, Gram, Grammy, Granny, Oma, Opa, Bapa, Papa. These terms of endearment are often spoken from the mouths of babes and worn with tremendous pride. Joachim and Anne each wear the title of Saint, but they were called by other names, too!
For this reason, it is worth imagining Saints Joachim and Anne not just as Mary’s mom and dad, but as Jesus’ grandma and papa. Brother Mickey McGrath created a wonderful image of Jesus with His grandparents. When I heard him speak about it, he mentioned imagining the child Jesus having a sleepover at their house. Pure joy!
As I have gotten older, I have met grandparents in a variety of roles. Some are raising their grandchildren. Many don’t see their grandchildren as often as they would like. Some are faithfully present, while others take little interest. Some keep a running tally of the growing number or their brood, while others yearn to meet their children’s children and grieve that void. In many cases, older neighbors, godparents, teachers, or friends simply become adopted into the role, regardless of relation.
The Gift of Grandparents
In a culture that has lost much of its reverence for the wisdom of older generations, and in light of this feast, we are in a unique position to celebrate those in our lives who walk or have walked with and nurtured us, as well as those who hold out those precious gifts to our own children.
If the nurturing of a grandparent isn’t your current experience, invite the Lord to bring someone into your life who might. If perhaps you are someone holding onto the ache for grandchildren (or, what’s a couple more?!), invite Jesus to make clear a family in need of time and energy you might desire to share with them.
Within the Context of a Family
The fact remains that the God of the universe took flesh and did so in the context of a family–not just parents, but aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. The Holy Family is not as distant as we sometimes believe. They are as available to us as our own relationships–chosen or otherwise. Let’s glorify God in these important connections!
Prayer to Saint Anne and Saint Joachim, Grandparents of Jesus
Saint Anne and Saint Joachim,
you were ever faithful to God, trusting in Him
in your lives and while you prayed for a child.
Your patience and perseverance in prayer
are an example to me.
I ask that you pray for me,
that I may be ever faithful and trusting in God.
May I always keep my focus on Him and trust in His timing in my life.
May my love for God and my faith in Him never waiver,
no matter what happens in my life.
May I appreciate the faith of others (like you two)
and be inspired to a deeper faith.
May my life of faith in God be richly blessed.
May I know, love, and serve God with all of my heart.
Saints Anne and Joachim, thank you for your example of faith.
Thank you for your wonderful daughter, my spiritual mother Mary.
Thank you for the love of God and the faith you inspire in me.
Grandparents of Jesus, pray for me.
Who have been influential grandparent figures for you and how might you honor them today? How might you be called to step in as a grandparent, or reach out to someone who is particularly good at nurturing the faith for you or your family?