The Courtship and Marriage of Sts. Anne and Joachim

From ‘Courtship of the Saints: How the Saints Met Their Spouses’

Detail of ‘The Meeting of Joachim and Anne Outside the Golden Gate of Jerusalem,’ by Filippino Lippi, 1497
Detail of ‘The Meeting of Joachim and Anne Outside the Golden Gate of Jerusalem,’ by Filippino Lippi, 1497 (photo: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from the section titled: “Saints Joachim and Anne.” The included quotes are from Vol. I of this source; pages of non-quoted material from that book are also referenced in brackets, rather than in standard footnotes. 

God cares about every marriage, but even more so when it involves His coming into the world. Every year on July 26, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saints Joachim and Anne. They hold the distinction of being the only couple in the world whose child, Mary, was conceived without original sin. But even more importantly, their grandson is Jesus! One would think that such holy peo­ple would be mentioned in Scripture, but this is not the case. Instead, Saint Matthew’s genealogy account men­tions Jacob, the father of Joseph, and traces his lineage through his father’s side (see Matt. 1:16). And yet, Saints Joachim and Anne’s hidden role in salvation history is undeniable. What we know about this holy couple comes from the “Protoevangelium of James” — one of the apocryphal writings and what is a form of private revelation. This combined with the mystical visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, an Augustinian Religious Sister, offers unique insights into the parents of the Blessed Mother.

Our Lord revealed His entire life to Blessed Anne Catherine Em­merich, which can be found in TAN Books’ four-volume set, The Life of Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations. These works have received ap­proval from many bishops and priests.

Saint Anne, a descendant of a line of prophets and holy souls, was raised in the Temple from age five to seventeen. On her mother’s deathbed, Anne was given charge of her siblings and was commanded to marry, “for she was a vessel of promise.”At the age of nineteen, Anne married Joachim [Emmerich, 124]. Normally, Anne would have chosen her spouse from the Levites of the tribe of Aaron, as her relatives had done, but God led her to marry Joachim from the house of David. It was said that Anne had many potential candi­dates for marriage. According to Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich’s vision of Anne, “she was not strikingly beauti­ful, though prettier than some others. Her beauty was not to be compared with Mary’s, but she was extraordinarily pious, childlike, and innocent.”

A good, virtuous woman is to be praised (see Prov. 31:30). Anne and her daughter Mary were foreshadowed in the beautiful verses of Prov­erbs describing a holy wife. 

Anne could have married almost any suitor, but Emmer­ich says that she chose Joachim “only upon supernatural direction.” As a woman of prayer, Anne was not inter­ested in the transitory realities like physical appearance or wealth, but in the eternal realities of faith, hope, and love. Anne’s openness to being pursued by Joachim — described as “poor and a relative of St. Joseph” and a “short, broad, spare man” of virtue — hearkens somewhat back to the story of Samuel and King David. Rather than choose the most esteemed person among Jesse’s sons, God told Samuel to anoint David — a young, wiry man (see 1 Kgs. 16:1–12). Anne allowed Joachim to pursue her, for she did not look at the appearance of the man, but according to his heart. Or as the Lord said, “Nor do I judge according to the look of man: for man seeth those things that appear, but the Lord beholdeth the heart” (1 Kgs. 16:7). Virtue always endures. 

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich also provides some historical background information on courtship and mar­riage during Anne and Joachim’s time. She wrote,

They were married in a small town that possessed only one obscure school, and only one priest presided at the ceremony. Courtship in those days was carried on very simply. The lovers were very reserved. They consulted each other on the subject and regarded their marriage merely as something inevitable. If the young girl said yes, her parents were satisfied; if no, and could give good reasons for her refusal, they looked upon the affair as ended. First the matter was settled before the parents, and then the promises were made before the priest in the synagogue. The priest prayed in the sanctuary before the rolls of the Law, the parents in their accustomed place, while the young couple in an adjoining apartment deliberated in private over their intention and contract. When they had taken their determination, they declared it to their parents. The latter again conferred with the priest, who now went to meet the couple outside the sanctuary. The nuptial ceremony was celebrated the next day.

After their marriage, the couple lived with Anne’s father for seven years before finding their own place [Emmerich, 127]. Their greatest legacy was the fruit of their marriage, Mary, who cooperated with God to produce the greatest fruit, Jesus. Yes, long before Jesus came into the world, God was rais­ing His own virtuous ancestors — one holy courtship and marriage at a time.


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