Have you ever stopped to contemplate the statues around our Cathedral? One month into lockdown, as one more afternoon rolled by and the strangeness of the silent church sunk a bit deeper, I was taking the chance to slowly wander around. This time, like never before, I was struck by the statue of a mother and daughter back at the southeast corner of our church. The mother is depicted as serene, beautiful, even elegant, yet what strikes even more profoundly is her love. Her demeanor and posture radiate love and delight in her young daughter whom she gently holds close and earnestly points out some detail
written upon the scroll held in her daughter’s hands.
It is the perfect icon to begin our hearing here the stories of the saints.
Not because we know heaps about St. Anne – for the woman is St. Anne, and the young girl clasping the scroll in our statue is her child is Mary – and we know almost nothing about Anne. The Gospels do not even tell us her name, much less any historical details about her life or how she and Joachim raised Mary. We get a few anecdotes from the ancient “Gospel of James”, but otherwise we are left with the insights of a few mystics, and our own prayer, to imagine the characteristics, personality, and bearing of the woman carved into stone at the back of our Cathedral.
Nor also because I have some tremendous devotion to Anne. I spoke above of “our” hearing the stories of the saints, and I mean it! I am not an expert on the saints, nor an eloquent story-teller, nor even someone who feels their friendship keenly and constantly. Yet I want to be all of those things, and it is in learning their stories, walking in their shoes (or sandals), studying their words, and imagining them living out ordinary human lives with the extraordinary grace of God, that allows us to reach the same destiny and joy that they did.
Nor, lastly, is it because Anne is the most applicable or approachable of all the saints. She is the mother of Mary, how can any of us find camaraderie with someone of that significance?!
Yet still, this statue seems the perfect place to start because it depicts a real moment not only in Anne’s
life, but in all of ours. Anyone reading this who is a mother has told stories to their children. Probably anyone reading this has told stories to someone: a sibling, a niece, a grandchild, a friend… So did St. Anne. Yes, she was entrusted with the child who would be the mother of God. Yes, she was given a grace and dignity because of that role and call. And yet, she cared for that child the same way any mother would: she told Mary the stories of her relatives, her ancestors, her history … and so she told Mary about God.
You see, to evangelize is not nearly as hard as we make it out to be. It might just be clasping a friend on the shoulder and really showing that you care about them. It might just be telling a story to a wide-eyed little girl or boy that communicates to them the truths about who they are, about who have come before them, about who God is, and how God has been a part of those stories. It might just be staying serene when storms are on the horizon and you are caring for precious cargo. It might just be pointing out to someone a word of God that you needed one time in your life when things were crazy.
St. Anne, mother of Mary, tell us the stories of God’s grace written in human lives, just as you told those same stories to your little girl. Amen.
Father Dominic Rankin serves as the Master of Ceremonies and Priest Secretary to the Bishop and as an Associate Vocations Director for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Father Rankin resides at the Cathedral.