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Saint Anne

Saint Anne


Mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Grandmother of Jesus Christ. Wife of Saint Joachim. Probably well off. Tradition says that Anne was quite elderly when Mary was born, and that she was their only child. The belief that Anne remained a virgin in the conception and birth of Mary was condemned by the Vatican in 1677. Believed to have given Mary to the service of the Temple when the girl was three years old. Devotion to her has been popular in the East from the very early days of the Church; widespread devotion in the West began in the 16th century, but many shrines have developed since.


• devotion is Pre-Congregation • cultus extended to the whole Church in 1584

Name Meaning

gracious one; grace


• against poverty • against sterility or infertility • broommakers • cabinetmakers • carpenters • childless people • equestrians • expectant mothers; pregnant women • grandmothers • grandparents • homemakers • horse men and women • housewives; homemakers • lace makers or workers • lost articles • miners • mothers • old-clothes dealers • poor people • pregnancy • riders • seamstresses • stablemen • turners • women in labour • Canada • France • Micmaqs • 4 dioceses • 18 cities


• door • holding Mary or Jesus in her arms or lap • at her betrothal to Joachim • teaching Mary to read the Bible • greeting Saint Joachim at Golden Gate • woman with a book in her hand


Joachim and Anne, how blessed a couple! All creation is indebted to you. For at your hands the Creator was offered a gift excelling all other gifts: a chaste mother, who alone was worthy of him. Joachim and Anne, how blessed and spotless a couple! You will be known by the fruit you have borne, as the Lord says: "By their fruits you will know them." The conduct of your life pleased God and was worthy of your daughter. For by the chaste and holy life you led together, you have fashioned a jewel of virginity: she who remained a virgin before, during, and after giving birth. She alone for all time would maintain her virginity in mind and soul as well as in body. Joachim and Anne, how chaste a couple! While leading a devout and holy life in your human nature, you gave birth to a daughter nobler than the angels, whose queen she now is. - from a sermon by Bishop Saint John Damascene

Many early Canadian fur traders were Catholic; not only the French-Canadian voyageurs, but their mostly-Scottish employers as well; it's not surprising that they should have had a patron saint. In the memoirs of Alexander Henry (the Elder), written in 1804, he wrote of his first venture into the Canadian fur trade in 1761:

"Saint Anne is the patroness of the Canadians, in all their travels by water."

Henry was a partner in the North West Company, the fur trading company which employed the largest number of voyageurs for the longest time. From the Narrative of Peter Pond, a founding partner of the North West Company, written c.1800, and recounting his experiences in 1773: (My transliteration, from his very idiosyncratic spelling system!).

...This church is dedicated to Saint Anne who protects all voyageurs. Here is a small box with a hole in the top for the reception of a little money for the holy father to say a small mass for those who put a small sum in the box. Scarce a voyageur but stops here and puts in his mite and by that means they suppose that they are protected while absent. The church is not locked but the money box is well secured from thieves. After the ceremony of crossing themselves and repeating a small prayer we crossed the lake...

From the 1793 journal of John Macdonnell, clerk of the North West Company:

At the church of Saint Anns the crews of the canoes collected a voluntary donation amongst themselves to which I contributed my mite, in order to have prayers said for the prosperity of the voyage and a safe return to those engaged in it, to their friends and families.... The next day, we reached Saint Ann's, thirty miles from Montreal. Here we passed the day in repairing the Canoes. I went with others to see the Church and was persuaded to 'promise a Mass' to 'beseech Gods blessing'. I did, and put a shilling in the box of the Roman Church in Montreal, when I returned in 1816 for I had no money then.

This church was at Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, on the west end of Montreal Island, and was the last one that the voyageurs passed before returning from their work in the fur trade, months or years later. The voyageurs had a very hazardous profession; many voyageurs drowned running treacherous rapids in frail birchbark canoes (sometimes entire canoe crews perished). Other times, voyageurs survived the rapids only to starve to death during the winter. My area of study and research ends at 1821, so I don't know much about Saint Anne's role in the fur trade after that. However, Fort Michilimackinac excavated a Saint Anne's medal which was dated to c.1840-1860.

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