Throwback Thursday: Feast of Saints Joachim and Anne – Model for an Evangelizing Family

Joachim and Anne, by Giotto (1304-06)

From as far back as the second century, the names of the Virgin Mary’s parents have been known as Joachim and Anne. Today, the Church commemorates their lives and invites us to consider how marriage and family are “interiorly ordained to fulfillment in Christ” (Familiaris Consortio, 3, citing Ephesians 5). The Church can make such a bold statement for two reasons. First, God in himself, as three persons, is a communion of love. Second, in creating man and woman in his image and likeness, God gave to man and woman the capacity for love and communion and so the family, like the Trinity, is called to be a communion of love and life.

Like the Church, the family participates in the mission of evangelization. Saint John Paul II in a letter to families writes, “It is, in fact, to the families of our times that the church must bring the unchangeable and ever new Gospel of Jesus Christ, just as it is families involved in the present condition of the world that are called to accept and live the plan of God that pertains to them” (Familiaris Consortio, 4).

Saints Joachim and Anne can teach us of the kind of environment in the home that creates a “small-scale church” and contributes to the work of the New Evangelization. Though we know very little about Joachim and Anne, and Mary’s life with them as a child, we can see in Mary the fruit of a family who was faithful to God’s plan for them. They reveal the marks of an evangelizing family.

Mary never would have been able to understand the visit of the Angel Gabriel if she had not been familiar with God’s promise to send the Messiah. Mary was raised in a home where the faith was lived fully. It isn’t difficult to believe that as a family, Joachim and Anne prayed together, participated in services at the temple and told the story of God’s love for the people of Israel to their young daughter.

Sharing the story of our faith is a primary responsibility of parents, and as a family we are also asked to share our faith with others, to be agents of the New Evangelization. This encourages us to think about how we can do that. It can be as simple as praying before meals every day – even when guests are present or when we are dining out at a restaurant. We have opportunities to invite family members and friends to share our faith in other ways – an invitation to Mass or an event at the parish, family-based Bible studies, or regular get-together with another family for prayer and discussion about the joys and challenges of being a Catholic family. The more your family can hear the Word of God and share it with others, the more your family becomes an evangelizing community.

The practice of service is also the mark of an evangelizing family. Just as each member of the family shares in the love and sacrifices that are necessary to create a happy home life, families are called to be of service to the Church and the world. This too is a form of evangelization. When your family shares time, talent and treasure to help other families, to contribute to the vibrancy of our parishes or the local community, you are putting your faith to work. You are sharing the love God first shared with you.

As we enjoy the lighter schedules that come with summertime, it might be the time to consider how your family may be able to grow together in the faith by building up your prayer time, taking advantage of the opportunities you have for sharing your faith with other families and by choosing some service time together as a family.