Readings proper to the feast:
Today at the Passionist Basilica of St. Anne in Scranton PA, thousands of pilgrims began gathering late last night to celebrate this annual festival of prayer. Through the night, The Knights of Columbus faithfully attended to the hours of Eucharistic adoration. In the darkness before dawn this morning, groups of pilgrims set out on foot from neighboring towns to arrive in time for the Mass at sunrise. Today’s celebrations are the culmination of the nine-day novena with multiple morning, afternoon and evening services. Celebration of the Eucharist, novena prayers for the intercession of St. Anne, and the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation were provided by the Passionist community with the generous assistance of priests of the Diocese of Scranton, whose vocations were often nourished at this shrine.
For many families of the Lackawanna Valley, this feast marks an annual time of reunion when children and grandchildren now living in surrounding States come back to the “old homestead” which holds so many memories of their family origins and values. This aspect of the familial reunion is increasingly important because of the stressful impact of modern life on the transmission of family traditions of Catholic faith to successive generations.
The graced-filled celebration of the fidelity of Sts. Joachim and Anne, who were blessed by God to become parents of Mary, symbolically touches on the role grandparents play in handing on faith in God to their children and grandchildren today. Though geographical distance and the pace of modern responsibilities often limit the opportunity for mutual presence, telephone and internet communication has increased dramatically as grandparents take a more proactive role in the lives of their grandchildren living away at college or in a workplace far from both parents and grandparents.
The original devotion to St. Anne was associated with the dangers of the coal mining industry in England and found a fitting ambience in the Valley where so many Catholic immigrants faced those same dangers night and day. Today, the example of Sts. Joachim and Anne instilling the traditions of their Jewish faith in Mary and, through her in Jesus, offers both young and old a model of renewed faith, whose time has come again as the inauguration of the worldwide Year of Faith draws near in October.
May the example of Sts. Joachim and Anne reawaken in all of us a deep appreciation for everyone who hands on our Catholic faith to the next generation in family and church communities.
(Father Paul Zilonka, C.P. is a Member of the Passionist Preaching Team of St. Paul of the Cross Province).
- Saint Gemma Galgani (1878 – 1903) (thepassionists.org)