|Anna Geperts and her daughter|
from Prayer Book
Holland or Flanders, ca. 1500
The Hague, Koninlijk Bibliothek,
MS KB135 E 19 fol.1v
Most modern people encounter St. Anne, not through a visual or written source, but through a name – Anne, Ann, Anna, Hannah, Aña, Aine, Anya and countless other variations. Of all the people who bear her name and of the churches, schools and other institutions named after her, she is the Patron Saint. She is also the Patroness of: grandmothers, women who have trouble conceiving, unmarried women (hence the pseudo-prayer “St. Anne, St. Anne, find me a man”), miners, the French region of Brittany (which takes in the shrine of Ste. Anne d'Auray with its famous “pardon” or pilgrimage in her honor) and the Canadian province of Quebec, with its major shrine at Ste. Anne de Beaupre.
|Madonna and Child with St. Anne|
from Hours of Pierre de Bosredont
France (Langres), ca. 1465
New York, Morgan Library
MS G.55, fol. 112v
In many works of late medieval art women named Anne requested that their own portraits be added as donor images. In these works they are shown kneeling before her in prayer.
|Master of the Legend of St. Ursula |
Anna Nieuwenhove Presented by St. Anne
Flemish, late 15th Century
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lehman Collection
These images demonstrate St. Anne’s role as intercessor for those who claim her as their Patron or for those who request her prayers.
The Catholic doctrine of intercession is frequently misunderstood by non-Catholics (and some Catholics). It is based on the Christian belief in the Communion of Saints, the union of all the faithful, living and dead, in Christ.
As the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states regarding the Communion of Saints:
|Lucas Cranach the Elder|
St. Anne with Donor
German, ca. 1514
Since all members of the Communion are alive in Christ, “death no longer has power” (Romans 6:9). So, just as we can request the intercessory prayer of persons still living in this world, we can request the intercessory prayers of those who, having passed from this life, live now in “the glory of God” (see above).
There is no “now” and no “then” in God. In 2011, we can request the intercession of Saint Anne just as readily as our predecessors of 500 years ago, such as does Anna Nieuwenhove in a painting by the Master of the St. Ursula Legend (above) or her contemporary Anne de Valois (also known as Anne de France) in the beautiful Bourbon Altarpiece by the Master of Moulins (identified as Jean Hey) or as readily as we can request the intercessory prayer of our own contemporary friend named Anne.
|Master of Moulins (Jean Hey), Bourbon Altarpiece|
French, ca. 1498
|Master of Moulins (Jean Hey)|
St. Anne with Anne de Valois
Detail of Bourbon Altarpiece
French, ca. 1498
So, on this feast of Saints Joachim and Anne it is fitting to close with this prayer to St. Anne:
O glorious Saint Anne, you are filled with compassion for those who invoke you, and with love for those who suffer. Heavily burdened with the weight of my troubles, I cast myself at your feet and humbly beg of you to take the present intention, which I recommend to you in your special care.
Please recommend it to your daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and place it before the throne of Jesus, so that He may bring it to a happy issue.
Continue to intercede for me until my request is granted. But, above all, obtain for me the grace on day to see my God face to face, and with you and Mary and all the saints to praise and bless him for all eternity. Amen.
|The Virgin Mary with Saints Joachim and Anne|
English, 15th Century
New York, Metropolitan Museum
Saints Anne and Joachim,
pray for us.
|Joos van Cleve, Madonna and Child with Saints Joachim and Anne|
Flemish, No Date (b. 1485, d. 1540)
Brussels, Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts
1. Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Vatican, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2005, #195