Life of Ste. Anne Final Post
VENERATION OF ST. ANNE
The body of St. Anne was buried outside the gates of Jerusalem. There, in the first days of her bereavement we can imagine Mary going to weep beside the tomb, before she retired to her little home at Nazareth. There, in after years she would have come, accompanied by Joseph, and later by Jesus Himself, when they came to visit the Temple. Later still, widowed and child-less, she would linger beside her mother’s grave after she had revisited the scenes of her Son’s Passion. We may suppose then that the tomb of St. Anne was an object of great veneration to all the disciples of Our Lord. They would have been horrified at the idea that those sacred remains should be desecrated by profane hands. Yet they knew, because of Our Lord’s prophecy that the destruction of Jerusalem was at hand. Lazarus, Martha and Mary and some others determined to leave the doomed city before the judgment of God fell upon it, but they would not leave the body of Our Lady’s mother to be profaned by the brutal soldiery of Titus. They carried it away with them, over the seas. They landed in the south of France, and tradition relates that they buried St. Anne’s body in a cave at a place called Apt in the south of France. Later on, a church was built over the spot, but owing to wars and religious persecutions the faithful were so harassed that they could not practise their devotions there, so it fell into decay, and even the place of St. Anne’s sepulture was forgotten. When peace returned to France and Catholics could breathe once more, a magnificent church was erected on the site of the old one, but the cave or crypt where the holy remains lay could not be found. During the consecration of the new church however, God chose, by a wonderful miracle, to disclose the resting-place of the grandmother of Jesus Christ, according to the flesh.
At the most solemn part of the ceremonies a boy of fourteen, who was among the congregation was noticed as becoming very excited. He was blind, deaf and dumb, and usually quiet and impassive. What was the surprise of everybody when he suddenly rose from his seat, walked up to the altar steps, and struck his stick several times upon one of them. His friends and others thinking he had suddenly gone mad tried to remove him, but in vain. He became still more violently excited, and kept on striking on the same spot. The Emperor Charlemagne was present in the church, and all eyes were turned upon him seeking advice or orders what to do. He, doubtless inspired by God, gave orders that workmen were to be summoned to remove the steps. This was done, and a subterraneous passage was discovered. The afflicted boy jumped into it, followed by the Emperor, and made signs that they were to break down a wall which impeded their progress. This was done, and at the end of a long narrow corridor another crypt was discovered, and, in front of a walled recess they saw a lamp burning, which sent forth an unearthly radiance. At that moment the light went out, while at the same moment the afflicted boy was given to see, to hear and to speak. He called out ” It is she.” Charlemagne echoed his words, and the cry was taken up by the crowds who sank on their knees, overcome by emotion. In the casket, when dug out, they found a winding sheet, enclosing the relics, and bearing the inscription : “Here lies the body of St. Anne, mother of the glorious Virgin Mary.” The winding sheet was found to be of Eastern design and texture, such as would be likely to be used in the Holy Land. Charlemagne, after venerating the sacred remains of St. Anne, thus unexpectedly and miraculously brought to light had an exact narrative of the occurrence drawn up by a Notary, and a copy of the same sent to the Pope with a letter from the Emperor. These documents and the Pope’s reply are still extant.
The cathedral built over the crypt holding the remains of St. Anne is dedicated to St. Auspice, the bishop who received the saint’s body from the disciples, and who interred it in this place, deep in the earth to save it from profane hands. From the time of the above-mentioned discovery this cathedral at Apt became the goal of devout pilgrims from all parts of France and Europe, who flocked thither to pay their homage to the blessed “grandmother” of Jesus Christ. The clergy and people of Apt, fully alive to the importance of the charge committed to them by God, have carefully guarded St. Anne’s relics all down the centuries, and, though some of them have been bestowed upon various churches, etc., the major portion of those relics still repose at Apt. Pilgrims to St. Anne’s shrine in the venerable cathedral will find piles of ex-votos, which testify to the gratitude of other pilgrims helped by good St. Anne during the past eleven hundred years. Many devout clients of Our Lady and St. Anne who visit Lourdes and St. Anne d’Auray will be surprised to learn that, not so very far away from Lourdes rests the body of Our Lady’s own beloved mother.
What historical associations cluster around this shrine at Apt ! Charlemagne bowed low before it, kings and queens have prayed there since his time. Crusaders have knelt there to invoke St. Anne’s blessing upon their pious undertaking. Men and women prominent in the history of Europe during the Middle Ages left rich offerings at the feet of Our Lady’s mother. The great King of France, Louis XIV, was a gift from St. Anne to his mother, Queen Anne of Austria. Like St. Anne herself, this queen, wife of Louis XIII, had arrived at an advanced age without bearing a child to be heir to France. She invoked St. Anne, sending chosen messengers to Apt to pray there. The birth of a son and heir was the extraordinary favour granted to her in return. The queen’s intense gratitude added a side-chapel to the Sanctuary, and thither the body of the saint was removed.
Many valuable gifts presented by Anne of Austria and other wealthy clients of the saint vanished during the stormy period of the French Revolution; fortunately the sacred relics remained untouched. Papal Bulls have over and over again asserted the genuineness of St. Anne’s relics at Apt, and so keen became the demand for them that at length they could only be obtained by permission of the king. An arm of the saint is enshrined in the basilica, of St. Paul’s outside the Walls, Rome; her right hand is venerated in the church of St. Anne in Vienna. Countless cures and conversions have taken place at Apt, the first, if not the most famous shrine of St. Anne.
ST. ANNE D’AURAY
Less ancient than Apt, but even better known and more popular is the Sanctuary of St. Anne d’Auray in Brittany, chosen by the Mother of Mary herself as a place where she wished to be specially honoured. It was to a Breton peasant that she made her desire known in a series of wonderful visions. The Bretons were always remarkable for their intense devotion to St. Anne, whom they regard as their Protectress and Patroness, and whom they address with tender familiarity as their “bonne-mere,” the Breton child’s term of endearment for its grandmother. The saint showed her appreciation of this attitude in a striking manner a little over three hundred years ago. She appeared several times to a humble peasant, named Yres Nicolazie, who lived outside the small village of Keranna (named in honour of St. Anne). There was nothing remarkable about this man. He had reached his fortieth year, and was just a sincere pious Catholic, going regularly to the sacraments, and constantly to be seen with his Rosary beads in his hands. Like every Breton he was devoted to St. Anne, speaking of her always as his “good mistress.” One pious habit he especially had, which doubtless was particularly pleasing to his holy Patroness. He was accustomed to visit frequently and to pray upon a certain piece of ground where tradition said that an ancient chapel of St. Anne had stood. Perhaps as he prayed there he longed that Holy Mass would be celebrated there once more in honour of Our Lady’s mother. His simple pious neighbours neither wondered nor laughed at Yres. He seems to have been generally respected, but taken very much for granted, until St. Anne picked him out as the person best fitted to accomplish her design of restoring her chapel at Keranna. One night, in August 1623, he saw in his room a hand holding a lighted wax torch. He was naturally startled, even frightened by this strange experience. It was repeated several times in his own field, called the “Bocenno” where the ancient chapel had stood. There was one part of this field which could never be ploughed, the oxen always refusing to pass over it. The mysterious torch-bearing hand hovered over this spot in particular, and it was seen by many of the villagers besides Nicolazie himself. St. Anne evidently thought that the poor peasant’s mind needed to be very gently and gradually prepared for his mission. At length she appeared to him in the form of a stately and venerable lady, clad in a snow-white robe, with the now familiar torch in her right hand and a luminous cloud beneath her feet. This happened one evening when he and his brother were driving home their cows, and the men were first made aware of a supernatural presence by the unaccountable behaviour of the beasts, which suddenly stood motionless, and could not be persuaded to stir. Nicolazie and his brother-in-law who saw the vision together fled from it in terror. They regretted their cowardice presently, and returned, but the lady had disappeared.
She came again soon, and after that often appeared to Nicolazie. At last she spoke to him, and bade him tell his parish priest that she wished her chapel to be rebuilt on the spot in the Bocenno field where she had been honoured long ago. He obeyed very unwillingly, but met with a decided rebuff. The Rector (or parish priest) would scarcely listen to him. The Catholic clergy so far from encouraging superstition as Protestants accuse them of doing, always take a severely critical view of alleged supernatural occurrences, realizing the harm that may be done in a community by one impostor or visionary, and the weakening of faith in the miraculous that may follow on exposure of fraud or insanity. But the Rector and Curate of Keranna carried this commendable caution to excess. Even when an ancient statue of St. Anne was discovered in the Bocenno field, under the guidance of the heavenly vision, they remained incredulous, and treated Nicolazie with harshness and contempt. In punishment of their obstinacy they were both afflicted with illness. The Rector on being cured through the intercession of St. Anne at once ceased his opposition to Nicolazie, did all in his power to hasten the erection of the chapel, and laboured during the rest of his life to spread devotion to the saint who had so generously forgiven his disobedience. The Curate also repented, but continued to suffer until his death a few years later. The news of the miraculous finding of the statue spread like wildfire through the country. Pilgrims came in crowds to Keranna, which gradually dropped that name, and became known as St. Anne d’Auray. Subscriptions poured in, and the chapel was speedily erected. St. Anne had repeatedly told Nicolazie that Keranna would become the most famous of her shrines, and one of the most renowned places of pilgrimage in the world. He lived to see the fulfilment of this prophecy of his ” good mistress.” To avoid publicity he retired from Keranna to Pluneret. He received no extraordinary favours himself from St. Anne, except the gift, after fifteen years of married life of two children, a son and a daughter. Nor was he again favoured by a vision of St. Anne until a short time before his death, which occurred in 1645, at the age of sixty-three. The Bretons have always venerated him as a saint but it is only recently that his Cause has been introduced at Rome.
Countless miracles have been wrought and extraordinary conversions have taken place during three centuries at the shrine of St. Anne d’Auray, and the pilgrimages thereto never ceased even during the terrors of the French Revolution. Nothing could stamp out the devotion in Brittany, and it is safe to prophesy that it will last as long as the Breton race. A glorious cathedral now replaces the old church in the Bocenno field, and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visit it each year.
ST. ANNE BEAUPRE
In addition to Apt and Auray there is yet a third famous Sanctuary dedicated to St. Anne, that of Beaupré in Canada. The first French settlers in that part of the American continent were chiefly Bretons, and they did not leave their love of St. Anne behind them in their home country. According to the legendary account of the origin of Beaupré some Breton sailors when caught in a storm on the St. Lawrence river besought, as of custom the aid of their Patroness good St. Anne, and promised, if rescued, to build a chapel in her honour wherever they should land. When after a night of misery they reached in safety the north bank of the river at Beaupré they did not forget their vow. In haste they erected a little wooden chapel, which was soon enlarged by the generosity of an old mariner resident in Beaupré. From that time, about the middle of the seventeenth century, the usual wonders associated with the devotion to St. Anne started, and drew the attention of the people of Canada to the spot. The first little chapel had expanded by 1876 into a great basilica, of which the Redemptorist Fathers took charge. It was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1922. The statue and relics of St. Anne were untouched by the flames, and the speedy restoration of the church was set on foot immediately, owing to the fervour of the French Canadians. Rome sent to this shrine at the end of the nineteenth century the wrist bone of St. Anne, now venerated as the great Relic of Beaupré. The Church of St. Jean Baptiste in New York contains a portion of the saint’s forearm, bestowed by Pope Leo XIII. The pilgrimages to Beaupré increase year by year. Devotion to St. Anne, wherever planted, strikes its roots deeply, and spreads with astonishing rapidity. This is not surprising when we consider how abundantly St. Anne showers favours on those who have recourse to her. No other saint seems to have more influence at the Court of Heaven than the Mother of the Mother of God.
ST. ANNE. PATRONESS OF CHRISTIAN MOTHERS
St. Anne obtains many graces, priceless graces for those who invoke her, but she grants her maternal assistance in particular to Christian mothers. She preserves peace in married life, restores harmony in discord, and wonderfully changes a husband’s bad disposition. She protects the birth of children in an extraordinary manner, bestows blessings that lighten the task of rearing children properly, brings wayward children back upon the right path, obtains restoration of health for the sick mother, preserves her precious life for the helpless children and prevents the loss of husband and father. Once when St. Bridget* was praying, St. Anne, to whom she had a special devotion, appeared to her, and said, ” Behold me, my daughter Bridget. I am Anne, whom you love. Know how full of mercy, goodness and affection I am for all who love me. Those who live chastely and peacefully in the state of matrimony, I will love and protect in a special manner, I will grant their petitions whenever they take refuge in me.”
* St. Bridget of Sweden, who was married, and had a large family.
How necessary, especially in these days, is St. Anne’s assistance for mothers in bringing up their children. That great saint obtains the grace for mothers to look upon their children as God’s greatest blessing, and to spare no pains to train them, from their infancy in the love of God. How beautiful it is to see a mother training the baby lips of her child to utter the Sacred Names, and training the tiny hands to form the Sign of the Cross. We see Anne teaching her daughter the sacred truths of religion, and so also should every mother train her child to read and love pious books. Children, too, should meditate upon the example given them by the youthful Virgin, as she stands at her mother’s side, hanging upon each word uttered by the beloved parent. If a picture of St. Anne with the Holy Virgin beside her were hung in every living-room in Ireland what an incentive and reminder it would be to mothers and daughters so to behave that no word or act of theirs would be unworthy of the presence of Mary and Anne. If it is good mothers who often implant the germs of future saints, it is, alas ! equally true that many souls are lost through the indifference, neglect and conduct of bad mothers.
A French physician who had witnessed the death of more than two thousand mothers once remarked, “I have always found a Christian mother’s death to be most beautiful and edifying.”
The following example is one of many instances which show us the happiness of a Christian mother’s death-bed.
In the forties of the last century a Christian mother lay dying in a village of the Black Forest in Baden. Seven of her children had pre-deceased her. Suddenly she raised herself, and with a cry of joy, exclaimed ” O, my little children!”
” What do you see?” inquired the priest who was beside her.
” All my seven children are there,” was the reply, as she sank back upon the pillow, and went to join her dear ones.
ST. ANNE PATRONESS OF ALL CHRISTIANS
In the glorious ages of Faith, the Middle Ages, St. Anne was fondly called “Comfortress of the Sorrowing, Mother of the Poor, Health of the Sick, Protectress of Widows, Patron of the Labourer, Patroness of the Childless, Help of expectant Mothers.”
St. Anne was spared neither trials nor humiliations, for years she suffered, and therefore understands how to comfort the sorrowful. St. Anne loved the poor, and she and her husband bestowed a third of their property on them. St. Anne continues her charity in Heaven. She helps the poor often in a wonderful manner, and she helps the dying, who are poorest of all.
The number of cures wrought by St. Anne’s intercession is countless, and she has been the Health of the Sick for centuries, and is still the same loving mother. St. Anne was long childless, and often obtains the gift of children for those who invoke her, if such be the Will of God.
She also guards mothers in their hour of danger, and obtains the favour from God that their children may not lose the grace of holy baptism.
She helps those who toil for their daily bread, as she was a toiler herself. In a word there is no limit to the beneficent activity of good St. Anne in Heaven, as all her clients have good reason to know, and having helped us during life, she will not forget us at the hour of our death, as the following experience related by a priest will testify:-
“It happened when I was assistant pastor in the parish of N——. One night I was aroused by the ringing of the door-bell. A strange stately lady called up to me. „Father, please go quickly, and take the Blessed Sacrament to a servant in a house up on the hill, for she will not live through the night. The sexton is awaiting you in the church.‟ The sexton had been awakened by the same person. I took the Blessed Sacrament, and we started for the house to which the lady had directed me. To our surprise we found the house locked, and when we knocked were informed that there was no one ill there. We concluded that some worthless person had deceived us. In order that I would not need to return with the Blessed Sacrament, one of the servants declared her readiness to go to Confession and to receive Holy Communion. Her pious offer was willingly accepted. During her Confession the servant experienced a slight indisposition. She finished her Confession and received Holy Communion. Before long she began to feel worse, and was obliged to take to her bed. Shortly after it was evident that her end was approaching. I administered Extreme Unction, and imparted the Indulgence for the dying. Scarcely was this done when she died. Above her bed hung pictures of many saints, among which was a large decorated representation of St. Anne. The inmates of the house informed me that the pious servant had practised special devotion to St. Anne, and in her honour abstained from milk every Tuesday.
“I have no doubt that the woman who called the sexton and me, was St. Anne herself, as she desired to obtain for her client this last great favour. Without the good saint‟s gracious intervention this would not have been possible.”
Let this example move us to practise special devotion to St. Anne to obtain a happy death, on which depends our eternity.
We conclude the series on the life and devotion to Ste. Anne with this post.
Please consider incoroporating St. Anne in your prayer/devotional life. Honor her on Tuesdays, visit her statues/shrines, name your daughters after her, pray her chaplet and above all, imitate her virtues.
Ask her to pray for the Archdiocese of Detroit that it may grow in holiness and experience a deep spiritual renewal.
Prayer to St. Anne
Good St. Anne, faithful witness to the expectation of the Lord’s coming, you watched tenderly over Mary, who was to become the Mother of our Savior and of us all. Throughout the history of Detroit, established as a colony on your feast day, you have been present as a powerful intercessor.
Now, as patroness, extend your kindness to our Archdiocese in this time. Remind us of God’s faithfulness. Share with us the faith, hope and love that made your life a tribute of praise to the Lord God almighty. Intercede for us so that we may have the strength to perform our daily duties and to bear the crosses that we are given.
Good St. Anne, pray for us.
(From the Archdiocese of Detroit)