When I was baptized, the rule in the Roman Catholic Church was that only saints’ names were allowed to be given. Everyone needed a saint as a patron throughout one’s life – someone to pray to and look up to for whatever needs arose. I got lucky with my middle name: Ann. It seems no one was aware that “Lois” appeared in the Bible in one of Paul’s letters as grandmother to his young companion, Timothy! Some people questioned the spelling of Ann. “That’s the pagan way,” they would say. It didn’t matter to me because I knew that regardless of the spelling I had the grandmother of Jesus taking care of me, and pictured her somewhat like my grandmother Brigid, my mother’s mother. Even when I entered the convent at age eighteen, I felt safe having a life-sized statue of St. Ann(e) right outside the back door that we passed coming and going. It brought her and her grandmotherly softness and care around me like a hug every day.
It’s interesting that there is no mention of the names of Mary’s parents in the Scriptures, or anywhere else in Christian documents. I’m glad I didn’t know that until somewhere in my adulthood when feeling “special” to God didn’t depend on a name. By that time, Joachim had been added as spouse to Anne and grandfather of Jesus. It was only right, I suppose, to add to the legitimacy of Jesus as part of a real, good family. Reading about the grandparents of Jesus now requires a more intuitive approach. Because of Mary’s qualities, as seen from her very few appearances in the gospels (see Truly Our Sister: Mary in the Communion of Saints by Elizabeth Johnson), we presume that she had good example and teaching from her parents.
So today we celebrate grandparents as we honor Anne and Joachim, by whatever name they were known in their own time. Whether we know our own grandparents by personal experience or the stories and pictures of our family, we owe gratitude, if for nothing else than the fact that we were brought into the world through people like Daniel, Julia, Michael and Brigid as well as those generations before, whose influence is still alive in our DNA.