St. Joachim, the father of the Blessed Virgin, was a native of Nazareth, a little town in Galilee. His parents, though occupying an humble position in the world, were descendants of the holy king David. It was not without inspiration that, at his circumcision, the name of Joachim was given him; it means “Preparation for the Lord,” or, as others translate it, a preparation for the arrival of the Lord; and it has been understood by several teachers to signify that he would have a daughter whom he would prepare, by a holy education, to be the dwelling of the Redeemer of the world. Arriving at the years of manhood, he married Anna, a virtuous and chaste maiden of Bethlehem, whom, without doubt, God had gifted with especial graces, as she was chosen by Him to be the Mother of the Queen of Heaven.
Joachim and Anna continued, after their union, to serve God with the greatest fidelity. The most perfect charity and harmony reigned in their dwelling. They had divided their possessions into three parts. The first they devoted exclusively to the honor of God and to the adornment of the temple; the second, to the poor; and the third they kept for themselves. One thing saddened the lives of Joachim and Anna. They had been married many years without being blessed with a child, and their advancing age made them despair of ever having one. Barrenness was, among their people and at their time, considered a great disgrace and a curse from Heaven, and Joachim lived under that cross for many years. He never ceased to implore God with tears, prayers and fasts, to remove it from him; but it seemed that he was not heard, which gave him great grief. He, however, never murmured against the Almighty, but, submitting to His will, continued his prayer. It is also believed, that he and his spouse made a vow, that if they were blessed with a child, they would consecrate it to His service.
St. Epiphanius relates that, one day, while St. Joachim was praying, an angel appeared to him and assured him that God had heard his prayer, and that a daughter should be given him, who would become the Mother of the promised Messiah. The angel informed him also of the name which God had destined for her. The joy, which filled St. Joachim when he heard this message, is beyond all description. He went immediately to tell his spouse of it, who, according to some authors, had received the same revelation. Both gave fervent thanks to the Almighty, and praised His mercy. The angel’s prophecy was fulfilled, and St. Anna gave birth to a daughter, who was born free from the stain of original sin, full of the Holy Ghost, blessed above all women, and destined by Heaven to be the Mother of the only-begotten Son of God. St. Joachim, renewing his thanks to the Almighty, redoubled his zeal in His service.
As soon as the time had come which the law prescribed, St. Joachim and his holy spouse carried their newborn child into the temple and offered her with great devotion to God, redeemed it again according to the custom, and returned with it to their home. Three years they kept their daughter with them, after which they brought the tender child, who was, however, gifted with the full use of mind, into the temple of Jerusalem, and having consecrated her, with the usual ceremonies, to the service of the Almighty, gave her in charge of the priests for education and instruction. In this manner St. Joachim fulfilled his vow and showed how truly he loved God. For although his love for his daughter, no doubt, surpassed the love of most parents for their children, yet he deprived himself of that which was most dear to him on earth, and consecrated it to the Most High. It cannot be doubted that God recompensed his self-sacrificing love with great graces and favors. After having made this sacrifice to the Almighty, Joachim and Anna lived for many years in great sanctity.
It is believed that St. Joachim expired in the eightieth year of his age; but proofs of this are wanting. His death, however, whenever it may have pleased the Almighty to call him, must have been precious in the sight of God, as so holy a life had preceded it. It is also certain that the glory of St. Joachim in Heaven and his intercession with God are proportioned to his merit and dignity in having been chosen to be the father of the Mother of God, and therefore, the grandfather of Jesus Christ. They who, in need and sorrow, invoke him with confidence, will surely find that he is ever ready to carry the petitions of the faithful to the throne of the Most High.
I. St. Joachim lived with his holy spouse, St. Ann, in continual love and harmony; they made use of their worldly possessions to honor God, decorate the temple and support the poor; they practiced patience together; they prayed together, and together consecrated their beloved daughter to God in the temple. Oh! that all married persons would follow their example, and, in love and harmony, encourage each other to practice all Christian virtues. According to Holy Writ, God has, as I have observed elsewhere, expressed His pleasure with married people who agree well together (Exod. xxv). But He abhors those who quarrel with each other, abuse, insult, defame or curse each other, who prevent each other from doing good and even incite each other to wicked deeds. And what do they gain by their contentions? They deprive themselves of the assistance and grace of God, which they so much need in a life which is difficult at the best. The Almighty, who is a God of peace and harmony, cannot dwell where contention, strife, hatred and discord reign. They must live together until death separates them, as nothing else can break their ties.
Therefore, if they live inharmoniously, they shorten their happiness in this world, and what have they to expect in the next? Those who do not love their neighbor with their whole heart will surely not enter the kingdom of heaven; and who is nearer to a wife than her husband? who nearer the husband than his wife, as according to Holy Writ, “the two are one flesh?” Christian couples should therefore daily pray to God for charity and unity; and should there come clouds between them, let them instantly enquire into the cause and remove it, that their dissension may not gain ground until it is impossible to uproot it, and thus draw upon them temporal and eternal misery. If their disturbances are already far advanced, they must, as in every other sin, make a firm resolution to live peaceably, agree to reform their conduct, else they are on the way to destruction.
2. St. Joachim took refuge in prayer in his grief and sorrow, and though God did not appear to hear him for a long time, he continued with confidence, submitting to Providence, and abstaining from all complaints and murmurs against God. Follow his example in trials and trouble. Seek shelter in God; pray without ceasing; even if your prayer is not granted, do not despair. Never complain or murmur against the Almighty; for He has His own reasons, though you cannot comprehend them, for not immediately complying with your request. Reflect a little on your past life, and see how often God has called you and exhorted you to correct your faults, to become more zealous in His service; and you closed your ears to His admonitions. How can you expect that He will heed you immediately? How dare you complain, if He does not hear you? Perhaps, too, your prayer is such as is unworthy to be heard by the Almighty. You say your prayers, perhaps, with a thousand voluntary distractions, and do not hear yourself. How, then, can you be surprised that God does not hear them? St. Bernard says: “I greatly insult the Almighty, if I desire that He will hear my prayer, when I do not hear it myself, and pay no attention to God nor to myself.” “If you desire to be heard by God, take heed that you are first heard by yourself,” says St. Ephrem, and he means that you should perform your devotions with attention and devotion. If even then you are not heard, think of the words of St . Gregory, who says: “If you are not heard immediately, do not leave off praying, but continue your prayer and increase your devotion. God wishes to be begged. He will be forced, so to speak, and will be vanquished by importunity.”
St. Joachim, spouse of Ann, Father of the Blessed Virgin,
aid thy clients here on the way to salvation.
(Indulgence of 300 days–Pius X, 1906)