Anne and Joachim — Grandparents as a “Parable”

Anne and Joachim -- Grandparents as a "Parable"

For the feast of and Joachim, offered some profound insights about the civilization of love. (see Angelus July 25, 1999; and Homily to the Parishioners of St Anne, 10 Dec 1978)

The elder generation has its special witness to God’s bounty and love. First, John Paul speaks of the grandparents as a “third age” — which constitutes a  value by the very fact that “life is prolonged and life is a gift of God.”  Second, we discover “special ‘talents’ due to the wealth of experience, knowledge and teaching which the possess. This is why in all cultures old age is synonymous with wisdom and common sense.” John Paul II has a very deep appreciation of this special talent, it is a gift for hope and psychological integration,  because  “older people remind everyone, especially the young, that life on earth is a ‘parable’ with its own beginning and end: to find its fulfillment, life must be based on values that are not transient and superficial, but solid and profound.” There is a special witness the elderly provide – one can see the fruit of a life based upon solid values (or behold the difficulty of life without a solid grounding in good character, moral consistency, and God). I would also see in this notion of parable, a way in which the elderly provide a mirror to the young, a vision for recapitulation of the trajectory of life. Obviously parents have a direct influence of the hopes and aspirations of the young, bu they in turn have reflected their own mother and father. And the young see an open pattern to trace into their own future. I have often reflected upon the extraordinary accounts of my grandparents because they lived “so long ago” in almost another world. (My grandparents were born in the 1890s. Both grandmothers were born of pioneer families in western states). I am now newly blessed by a grandchild, our first, Christened “Gabriella.” In the face of a fresh gurgling smile I can barely imagine the world to come. She could well live to 2095. With grandparents and grandchildren we stand within the orbit of five generations, a grand sweep of two hundred years, in which to behold such an abundance of lives and gifts.But that too is but a pale reflection of the divine immensity.

John Paul II notes that even if modern society pushes aside the elderly, we instinctively return to them when a new generation is born: “In industrially and technologically advanced societies, the condition of the elderly is ambivalent: on the one hand, they are less and less integrated into the fabric of the family and society; but on the other, their role is becoming ever more important, especially for the care and education of grandchildren. Young couples, in fact, find grandparents to be an indispensable help. In one way, then, the elderly are marginalized and, on the other, they are sought after.” 

Therefore, the Church in her wisdom presents for our veneration the elderly figures of Anne and Joachim. Certainly the very maternity of Mary is a reflection or recapitulation of her own Mother’s life. As John Paul II put it, Mary “learned” from her mother, from St Anne, how to be a mother. “And although, from the human point of view, she had renounced motherhood, the Heavenly Father, accepting her total donation, gratified her with the most perfect and holy motherhood. Christ, from the Cross, transferred in a certain sense his mother’s maternity to his favorite disciple, and likewise he extended it to the whole Church, to all men. When, therefore, as “children of (divine) promise” (cf. Gal 4:28, 31), we find ourselves in the range of this motherhood, and when we feel its holy depth and fullness, let us think then that it was St Anne herself who was the first to teach Mary, her daughter, how to be a Mother.”

Our reverence for the Holy Family extends itself to the grandparents of Jesus. John Paul
II reminds us that our reverence for Anne and Joachim brings home to us
the value of the family, for it is the role of the family, in all its
members, “to guard, reveal and communicate love” (Familiaris consortio,
n. 17). .

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