23rd September 2007
The Archbishop of Tuam, Archbishop Michael Neary’s homily and special prayer for grandparents at the First Annual Grandparents’ Pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine, Knock
Presentation of the Virgin
In the newly refurbished University Chapel, on St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, founded by Cardinal John Henry Newman in the 19th century, there is a magnificent painting entitled: “Presentation of the Virgin”. It is dated from 1772 and was once the property of the Marquez de Velasco.
Description of the Painting
The painting depicts the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, when she was just three years old. The artist captures in a very poignant way the delight, pride and joy of Saints Anne and Joachim as they present their special daughter Mary in the Temple, as was the Jewish religious custom of the time. The feast of the presentation of Mary was first kept in the 8th century and was a symbol of her consecration to the Lord, being marked out for her important role in Salvation History. As one looks on the magnificent painting in University Chapel the mind is drawn, in wonder, to question from the poignant expression on the faces of Anne and Joachim if they had any idea that this was to prefigure the presentation of the long awaited Messiah in the Temple. Had they any inkling that they were to be the Grandparents of the most important religious figure of all time: The Saviour of humankind, Jesus Christ?!
Jesus in today’s Gospel gives a sense of the greatness and magnificence of that moment of revelation of God’s glory, akin to both presentations in the Temple:
Happy the eyes that see…
the ears that hear…
many prophets and holy men longed to hear and see what you see.
All of this is made actual and real in the incarnation.
We often use the term first lady or first citizen to describe someone of importance and substance. From that point of view Joachim and Anne certainly deserve the title first-Grandparents or proto-grandparents by virtue of their importance or status! As the book of Ecclesiasticus beautifully puts it in today’s reading:
Let us praise illustrious men…
whose good works have not been forgotten.
In their descendents there remains
A rich inheritance born of them.
Tradition of Saints Joachim and Anne beginning to emerge
Even though there is no mention of Saints Anne or Joachim in the bible, writings from the second century begin to mention them occasionally.
In the Words of the early Church Father, St John Damascene: “O blessed couple. All creation is in your debt. For through you is presented the noblest of gifts to the creator, namely a spotless mother who alone was worthy for the creator.”
The Veneration of St Anne dates from the sixth century in the East and spread throughout the West in the tenth century. That of St Joachim is more recent. We now celebrate the feast of the Grandparents of Jesus on 26 July and please God the National Pilgrimage of Grandparents to Knock, in honour of Joachim and Anne, will become a regular fixture in the Church’s calendar.
Common Experience of Grandparents
The experience of most people in relation to their grandparents is that of a dearly cherished and treasured memory. Grandparents have a special role in the lives of most people. Because:
- they are that one generation removed;
- because they do not have to be in an authoritarian role;
- because they tend to have more time on their hands;
- because they are that bit more mature and patient;
- because they have that bit more of an objective slant on life, tempered in the fire of experience and lived reality;
- because they are good judges of what is truly worthwhile, of what is good and true and beautiful; and,
- because of all these things they know the importance of giving huge attention to the younger generation.
Grandparents know that the child is indeed the father of the man and they invest heavily in that.
Role in handing on the Faith
Traditionally grandparents have played a huge role in handing on the faith to their grandchildren, teaching them how to pray, passing on the great treasure of faith and devotion that was handed on to themselves from their ancestors. The Church, and indeed society in general, would be a much poorer place without their much valued and appreciated contribution within families and in homes. Much of the love and huge appreciation that exists for grandparents is expressed in the thousands of beautiful prayers that the children have composed for this occasion, and which are on display here today.
Saying thanks to Grandparents and celebrating their role
Today, we celebrate that important role that grandparents have and continue to have. Today is a time for saying thanks to them for all they have done and please God will continue to do. I conclude with the following prayer and blessing for grandparents:
Blessing and prayer for Grandparents
We thank you for the goodness in the long lives of the Grandparents present here.
May your continual blessing be upon them and grant them peace in their hearts.
Grant them cheerfulness in good health and patience in times of bad.
Let courage and wisdom be their daily guide.
May their families, friends and neighbours be blessed in their support of them.
May the risen Lord Jesus be their companion on their way,
and stay with them when it is evening and the day is far spent.
Faoi choimirce na Maighdinne Beannaithe, Muire go raibh siad ar fad!
May almighty God bless all grandparents here, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Part of the Welcome at the beginning
Fáilte romhaibh chuig Srín na Maighdinee Beannaithe anseo i gCnoc Mhuire ag Oilithreacht Náisiúnta Sean-tuismitheoirí na hÉireann. Fáilte roimh chuile dhuine ach thar aon duine eile fáilte speisialta roimh na Sean-tuismitheoirí ar fud na tíre a tháinig anseo inniu.
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Kathy Tynan Communications Officer (086 817 5674)