About 15 years ago I sat horrified in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Memphis when, after having been asked about the Immaculate Conception by the priest giving us a tour, a group of homeschooled students whose parents had been very faithfully educating them in the Faith, assured Father that the Immaculate Conception was when Jesus was conceived in Mary's womb. I wrote about this a couple of years ago, and noted that it surprised me that since this is such a common mis-conception, the gospel for the feast is the story of the Annunciation. Let's just see what we can do to confirm this error in the congregation's consciousness.
I suppose that the reason for this choice is that there just isn't any appropriate gospel reading for this event, and very little else about Mary to choose from. You probably know that the story of Mary's conception is found in the Protoevangelium of James, a non-canonical document. Any cursory reading of the narrative will convince the reader that its omission from the Bible was a wise decision, but it's interesting because it is the source from which many legends about the early life of the Holy Family are derived.
The reason for all of the above is that today my thoughts are with St. Anne.
What must her thoughts and feelings have been when she found that she was with child. Like Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth, a woman past all hope of motherhood, miraculously changed from a barren "failure" into the mother of the greatest woman who ever lived. Of course, she surely didn't know at the time what was in store for her daughter, but she did know that she was singularly blessed.
It's not unusual for mothers to think their children are perfect--at least when they are young--but she's one of the only two mothers who were ever right (Well, maybe St. Elizabeth, too.). And I guess this means that she was the only grandmother who ever had a perfect grandchild. I wonder if she was alive when Jesus was born.
I wonder what she thought as she watched her daughter grow in perfection. I wonder if other mothers were jealous and spiteful. I wonder if she suffered when other children hurt her daughter. Well, of course she did. I wonder if she worried that she and Joachim would die when Mary was still young, leaving her without proper support.
I always get irritated this time of year when I hear the song, Mary, Did You Know? because yes, she did. But St. Anne--what did she know? What did she suspect? How did she and Joachim determine that Joseph was the proper spouse their daughter. There's just so much we can't know.