One of the significant celebrations in our Custody is the Feast of St Ann and St Joachim which falls on 26 July. This is because the friars have been serving in the parish of St Ann in Kuching, Sarawak since 2001. Under her patronage, the parish has grown from a small mission outpost to a vibrant parish.
Although dampened by COVID restrictions, the feast day this year is uniquely special because Pope Francis recently declared 25 July 2021 (fourth Sunday of July) the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. This is in no way a coincidence as St Ann and St Joachim are the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and grandparents of our Lord Jesus.
According to tradition, St Ann was an old woman when she conceived Mary immaculately in her womb. The years of shame and hardship that both of them endured as a barren couple turned to unsurpassed joy at the gift of a child, who would one day bear within herself the Messiah. This beautiful miracle attests to the fact that God can work through anyone He chooses.
From this elderly couple and indeed many others in Scripture (eg Abraham and Sarah, Zechariah and Elizabeth), God raises our hope and cements our belief that all of us are part of the body of Christ, each with a valuable and indispensable role.
In his message for this first celebration, Pope Francis reminds the elderly of their role, saying :
“Think about it: what is our vocation today, at our age? To preserve our roots, to pass on the faith to the young and to care for the little ones. Never forget this.”– Pope Francis
Indeed, it is from the elderly that we inherit our faith, customs and traditions, from whom we learn the virtue of humility as we acknowledge the wisdom they have gained through years of life experience.
At the same time, the elderly need our special care and attention – more so in this time of social isolation. Who can bring them consolation from God, who assures us with these last words of the Gospel of Matthew – “I am with you always” (Matt 28:20)? Yes, the young, and the not so young!
As Pope Francis says in his message, “May every grandfather, every grandmother, every older person, especially those among us who are most alone, receive the visit of an angel!” Each of us can be that angel, but so too can parishes, and perhaps especially a Sarawakian parish under the patronage of the grandmother of Jesus.
Friar David Au OFM
Wishes & Greetings from His Grace Archbishop of Kuching Simon Poh, the Franciscan Friars and St Ann’s parishioners of Kota Padawan, Malaysia on St Ann’s Feast Day!