Our mothers hold a special place in our hearts. They carry us before we are born, and continue to do so long afterward. God instructs us in His Word to honor both of our parents throughout our lives and to learn from their example as they teach us how to live in accordance with His will. Godly mothers are extolled throughout Scripture for their virtuous lives, their example of personal purity, and for their devotion to leading and serving a Christ-centered home.
The Catholic Church has a number of saints who were mothers themselves, and many look to them as examples as they seek to honor God in their own lives. One such saint, St. Anne, is considered the patron saint of mothers. The reason for this is that, according to legend and tradition, she was the mother of the most well-known mother in the world.
9 Facts About Saint Anne
#1 When did St. Anne live?
St. Anne is believed to be the mother of the Virgin Mary, so she would have lived prior to the ministry of Jesus Christ. Scholarly estimates date her birth around 50 B.C. and her death around A.D. 12.
#2 What is the earliest mention of St. Anne?
She is never mentioned in the canonical Bible, but she is mentioned by name in the Gospel of James, which was written around A.D. 150. This work is not considered to be part of the inspired Scriptures, and is considered apocryphal by most denominations; however, church tradition has maintained her sainthood through the centuries.
#3 How else is St. Anne believed to be connected to the early church?
Later church legend attested that Anne married three times, and her three daughters were closely connected to Jesus’ earthly ministry. Interestingly, all three daughters were named Mary.
Her firstborn daughter was the virgin mother of Jesus Christ. Her second daughter was Mary of Clopas, who was named as present at the crucifixion and who brought ointments for His body on the day of the Resurrection. The third Mary, Mary of Salome, was also present at the tomb and is often identified as the wife of Zebedee, making her the mother of the disciples James and John.
#4 How does someone become a saint?
After a person has died, their life is investigated by an official expert authorized by the Church. Their initial report is submitted to the bishop of their diocese and further investigation is performed. They may then submit the individual to the office of the Pope for recognition by the universal church. If this recognition is granted, they will have been venerated by the Church, and are given the title “Venerable.”
The next level involves further research, and if warranted the person is beatified and is given the new title “Blessed.”
The final level of investigation determines whether or not miracles were performed. Proof of at least two miracles performed by God through this person must be verified. Once this is proven, the Pope may canonize this person as a saint through a public proclamation.
#5 Do other religions honor St. Anne?
Anne is also revered in Islam as the mother of Mary, although she is not named directly in the Quran. She is instead identified as “the wife of Imran.” When she became pregnant at an old age, she expected to have a boy, but when Mary was delivered she saw that a daughter was God’s gift to her; her prophecy at Mary’s birth lends to the belief that she was a great mystic in Islam.
#6 What other beliefs are maintained around St. Anne?
One particular birth that indirectly relates to Anne is that of the “Immaculate Conception,” which is the belief that Mary herself was born without original sin and was perfectly holy and spotless before God. This was made official church dogma in the middle of the 19th century, although Protestant denominations deny this belief.
#7 What is her patronage?
Some Christian denominations, such as Catholicism, recognize certain saints as able to intercede before God in prayer on behalf of those suffering from a particular ailment or to pray on behalf of a certain kind of believer. Others do not believe that saints can intercede on behalf of the living when they die.
Primarily, St. Anne is the patron saint of mothers, stemming from her status as the mother of Mary, who was the mother of Christ. The conditions of her pregnancy also made her the patron saint of women in labor or those who desire to become pregnant; other related patronages include being the patron saint of unmarried women and housewives.
Later tradition also set St. Anne as the patron saint of horseback riders, cabinet-makers, and miners. She is also the patron saint for sailors and is said to protect them from storms.
#8 How is she honored in the Catholic Church today?
St. Anne is a mainstay in the Catholic Church due to her status as a preeminent saint and is often featured in art and doctrine depicting the life of Mary. St. Anne is also invoked in modern devotions by asking her and her husband to pray for the unborn.
#9 Where is devotion to St. Anne most fervent today?
Devotion to St. Anne is strongest in France. Legend states that Mary Magdalene brought her body to France nearly fifty years after her death, and relics related to St. Anne were also believed to have been brought to France in the 7th century. That French influence carried over to Canada, where she also remains popular today.
Although her sainthood depends greatly on church tradition and less-than-reliable source material, St. Anne remains a popular object of devotion for Catholics today. Her status within the extended family of Christ, and the legends surrounding the birth of Mary the mother of Jesus, have granted her a special status in the eyes of worshippers around the world, along with the belief that she watches over many groups of people.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.