JUST IN TIME FOR MOTHER’S DAY! St. Anne, Patron of Detroit

REPOSTING from last year, because of the holiday this weekend!

Now there’s a mother to admire!  Just imagine dinnertime at the home of Saint Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus!  All the sharing, all the prayer, all the joy that must have filled that happy home!

Just in time for Mother’s Day, Saint Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus, has just been named the patroness of Detroit. 

It’s been a big week for the city!  We have been waiting for the Pope to appoint a new auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Detroit; and on May 5, our prayers were answered and three new auxiliary bishops were ordained at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral by Archbishop Allen Vigneron. 

A surprise during the ordination ceremony was the announcement that the Church of Detroit had been placed under the patronage of St. Anne, mother of Mary.  During the ceremony in which Msgr. Donald Hanchon, Fr. Michael Byrnes and Fr. Jose Arturo Cepeda were ordained to the episcopacy, a translation of the Vatican’s decree was read. 

How Was Our Patron Chosen?

The early French settlers to Detroit had a particular devotion to St. Anne, mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The first Mass was celebrated here on July 26, 1701, feastday of St. Anne; and on that day, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac and 51 settlers established Saint Anne de Detroit, the first Catholic church in Detroit.  St. Anne’s, located in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge, is the second-oldest church in America.

Shortly after his arrival as our archbishop in 2009, Archbishop Vigneron learned that we had no “official” patron; and he invited local Catholics to submit their suggestions.  Knowing of the historical devotion to St. Anne here in Detroit, many voted that the grandmother of Jesus be invoked as our protector and patron. 

In January 2010, Archbishop Vigneron petitioned the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; and their positive response meant that St. Anne now holds a special place in the hearts of all Detroiters. 

Who Was Anne, Exactly?

Mary’s parents, Anne and Joachim, are not named in the pages of Scripture; but they are identified in apocryphal literature—ancient texts written around the same time as the four canonical gospels, including the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, and the Protoevangelium of James. 

The Protoevangelium describes a rich but childless couple, Joachim and Hannah (Anne), who were very devout.  Joachim, according to Jewish custom, presented himself at the Temple to offer sacrifice on a feastday; but James tells us that he was turned away because men without offspring were unworthy to be admitted.  Joachim, distraught and saddened, retreated to the mountains, where he prayed that God would bless the couple with a child.  Hannah, too, prayed that God would take from her the curse of sterility, and promised that the child she bore would be dedicated to the service of God.  Their prayers were heard; and each was visited by an angel who promised, “Hannah, the Lord has looked upon your tears; thou shalt conceive and give birth, and the fruit of thy womb shall be blessed by all the world.”  Joachim returned to his wife; and she gave birth to a child whom she named Miriam (Mary). 

Devotion to St. Anne

The Eastern Church has had a particular devotion to St. Anne since at least the sixth century.  In Eastern Orthodox tradition, Anne carries the title Forbear of God.  Two of Eastern Orthodoxy’s Twelve Great Feasts, the Birth of Mary and the Dedication of Mary in the Temple, celebrate Anne’s maternity.  The Dormition of Anna is also a minor feast in the Eastern Church.

Interestingly, St. Anne is also esteemed in the Islamic faith.  According to Islamic tradition, Anne (Hannah) was the daughter of Faqud, and was childless until her old age.  While sitting under a tree, Hannah saw a bird feeding its young and she prayed that she might have children of her own.  Hannah’s husband, called Imran in the Qur’an, expected the child to be male, and the couple dedicated him to isolation and service in the Temple.  However, Hannah gave birth to a girl whom she named Mary, and she believed that the child was God’s special gift to her.

St. Anne in Art

Portraits of St. Anne are reminiscent of “matryoshka” (meaning “little matrons”), the traditional Russian nesting dolls.  In Eastern iconography, Anne is frequently depicted holding her daughter Mary, who is in turn holding the infant Jesus.  Such is the case for the new icon for the Archdiocese of Detroit, which was written by the Hand of iconographer Donna Rathert. 

So, too, is the second example—a sculpture of Anne with Mary and Jesus which can be found in the Cathedral of Burgos, in Spain.

A ceramic representation of Saint Anne and the infant Mary was created by Adam Kossowski, and is displayed at Aylesford Priory. 

A Prayer to St. Anne

Good Saint Anne,

you were especially favoured by God

to be the mother of the most holy Virgin Mary,

and thus grandmother of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

By your intimacy with your most pure daughter and her divine Son,

kindly obtain for us the graces that we seek.

Secure for us the strength to perform faithfully our daily duties

and the help we need to persevere in the love of Jesus and Mary.