Maybe it was my visit home for the Fourth of July. I watched with admiration as my two sisters beamed over their grandchildren, so happy to have them crowding around, so jolly as they ran, played, and swam.
Or perhaps it was my chats with mom, as we recalled her mom, and dad’s mom—my two grandmas—sadly, I can’t recall that well my two grandpas—and recounted their grit and lust for life.
It could be my many visits to parishes, as I meet grandparents bringing their grandchildren to Sunday Mass and proudly introducing them to me, or my drop-ins at Catholic schools in the Bronx where I encounter the abuelas coming to bring their grandkids home.
Whatever caused it, I want to shout out my love for our grandparents!
A couple of years ago I spent the night with two police officers as they drove on patrol through the Bronx. They were brimming over with wisdom earned in that classroom called “the street.” We of course talked about crime and violence, drugs and gangs.
“Our best allies are the grandparents,” one of the officers observed. “They’re the ones who love their kids, who coach them and prod them to stay out of trouble. Sadly, the dads are often not around, the mom working hard outside the home. The grandparents provide the stability and structure.”
Years ago I visited Russia, then still under communist rule. Our group of seminarians visited a monastery, allowed to exist but harassed and controlled by the government. We asked how children learned the faith if religious schools and instruction was forbidden. The monk who spoke English was puzzled at the question and replied, “Why, from the grandparents, of course! Isn’t that how most of us learn our faith?”
Well, I had to admit, he had a point. My mom and dad sure took their faith seriously, and sacrificed to send us to a Catholic school, but both of my grandmas spoke so tenderly and sincerely about their religion, their prayers, their trust in Jesus. Yes, that had a huge impact.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, often speaks of his grandma, Nonna Rosa, an immigrant to Argentina from Italy. She taught him his prayers, he tells us, told him about Jesus, and helped him love the Mass and the Rosary.
All of this comes to mind as we anticipate the feast of SS. Joachim and Anne on July 26.
Jesus had grandparents, too. Tradition tells us Mary’s parents—thus the grandparents of Jesus—were Joachim and Anne. (The Gospel tells us the name of St. Joseph’s father, Jacob, but does not mention his mother).
Historians of Jewish culture at the time of Jesus tell us that grandparents were extraordinarily significant in family life. Joachim and Anne would most probably have lived very close to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, if not even with them, and would have been an intimate part of daily life.
Yes, Jesus is true God; He is also true man. So, He had a mother and earthly father, and He cherished his grandparents.
Joachim and Anne help us get closer to Jesus. We seek their intercession with Him. We ask them to help us be part of their family, of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and they respond, “You are! Come on in!”
Back to 4th of July. My Aunt Lois, mom’s sister, came out to visit. She spotted Patrick Robert Dolan, now ten, my brother Pat’s boy, my nephew, whom she had not seen in a while. I saw her jaw drop.
“Good Lord! He looks just like your dad!”
That would be Robert Dolan, my father, little Pat’s grandpa, whom he never met.
She was right, I realized. Dad may have died suddenly forty-two years ago, but he was alive in his grandson, Patrick.
Grandparents, thank God we got you!
Ss. Joachim and Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and grandparents of Jesus, thank God we got you! Thanks for raising your daughter to be trusting of God and faithful to her religion. Pray for us!