Ann and Her Daughter Mary

A few years ago on pilgrimage to Jerusalem I visited the western wall that once supported the ancient Jewish temple where Jesus worshipped and taught. He announced that he would replace this temple through the mysteries of his death and resurrection. Some years later, in AD 70, the temple was destroyed.

The day I visited this holy place, Jewish mothers and their daughters were fervently praying at one section of the battered wall, all that’s left of the glorious buildings that once filled pilgrims with awe and pride. I wondered what they were praying for at this majestic ruin.

Tradition says that the parents of Mary, Ann and Joachim, whose feast we celebrate today, were closely connected to the temple of Jerusalem and may have lived near it or in a town close by. Joachim had a role in providing for the temple, tradition says. Like the Jewish women I saw, Ann and her daughter Mary must have prayed often in this holy place.

What did they pray for; what did they believe? God is here, the Prophet Isaiah said; all the peoples of the earth will stream toward this place when the Messiah comes. Pray even when dreams seem gone. God raises up the poorest to do great things. God’s kingdom will come, no matter how dim the present seems. God works even in ruins.

Ann was old when she conceived Mary, tradition says. Too old to conceive. “Nothing is impossible with God,” the angel said to her daughter when she conceived her Son.

We ask the grace to believe and pray as these two women did. I can’t help thinking that the Jewish mothers and their daughters I saw that day praying at the wall are their descendants too.

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