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Saints of Carmel

Saints Anne and Joachim - Parents of the Virgin Mary and Protectors of the Carmelite Order


The meeting of Saints Anne and Joachim
depicted in a medieval Carmelite altarpiece in Vienna.


The parents of the the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saints Anne and Joachim, are named in the apocryphal Proto-Evangelium (First Gospel) of James written in the 2nd century.

A cult of devotion to Saint Anne is documented in the East in the 6th century, and had spread to the West by the 10th century. Devotion to Saint Joachim developed in the 14th century.


The meeting of Anne and Joachim depicted in the 'Reconstructed Carmelite Missal' belonging to the Carmelite friars in London c. 1375.
London, British Library, Ms. Additional 29704-5, folio 165r (detail).


Through its long history the Carmelite Order has promoted devotion to Christ's family as a means of drawing closer to him. Since the official title of the Order - "The Brothers and Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary" - places Carmelites in a close familial relationship with Our Lady, the Order looks to those saints who were close to Mary for the support and protection they offered to her. As Mary's spouse Saint Joseph is revered as Principal Protector of the Order. As Mary's parents, Saints Anne and Joachim are revered as secondary Protectors of the Order.


The Chapel of Saint Anne at Aylesford Priory in Kent.


Artwork in the Chapel of Saint Anne at Aylesford Priory.
Left: Saint Anne holding the infant Mary in a ceramic by Adam Kossowski.
Right: A 15th-century 'Anna selbsdritt' statue from the Continent showing
Saint Anne carrying the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, both as infants


Various medieval Carmelite legends claimed that Saints Anne and Joachim took the infant Mary to visit the hermits who allegedly lived on Mount Carmel in imitation of the Prophet Elijah. Whilst such legends are without historical basis, they show the close relationship that the Order sought to nurture with the communion of saints. Such stories encouraged the Carmelites to see themselves as cooperating with God in the salvation and sanctification of the world.

Today Saints Anne and Joachim are still revered in a special way by members of the Carmelite Family around the world. Their feast day on 26th July is ranked as a Memorial in the Roman Calendar, and the Carmelite Order additionally honours them as "Protectors of Our Order". The feast day is traditionally a time to pray for families. In the Carmelite Family it is especially a time to pray for those (Lay) Carmelites who are grandparents.


The cloth adorning this altar of Saint Anne
in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin
declares "Saint Anne, care for us, too".


Let us pray

Lord, God of our fathers and mothers,
you bestowed on Saint Joachim and Saint Anne
the singular grace that their daughter, Mary,
should become the Mother of your Son, Jesus Christ.
Grant, at their intercession,
the salvation you promised to your people.
We make our prayer through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

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