I love St. Anne. Don’t we all love a good grandmother? St. Anne was the mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus. What’s not to love about that?
St. Anne’s life story also reminds us of the importance of trusting in God, even when he seems not to hear our anxious prayers. And that’s something I struggle with almost every day.
Once, when my youngest son was very small, he needed an antibiotic to heal an ear infection. Fortunately, he loved the taste of the sticky, pink liquid the doctor prescribed. He loved it so much, in fact, that each morning, after we gave him his daily dose, he begged for another spoonful. When we told him no, he would throw his small body on the floor and pound the kitchen tiles with furious fists.
“We can’t give you more medicine than the doctor says,” his older siblings tried to tell him, “It wouldn’t be good for you!” But he just figured we were being mean and stingy with the good stuff. He was too young for reason, and so we did our best to distract him from his daily tantrums.
I remember thinking, as I watched him writhe on the floor, that this must be how God sees me sometimes. I sometimes beg and pray for something very specific that I think I know will be good. It might be something for me or for someone that I love. I pray for specific outcomes for specific situations. I pray for good health, new jobs, happy marriages, or success in work and school. These are all good things that I desire, but I am shortsighted. I lack God’s perspective. I want the good stuff I am asking for … my way and right now. But none of us has God’s long-term vision and hopes for our future.
Consequently, when God doesn’t appear to answer my prayers immediately, I sometimes pitch a fit, demonstrating the spiritual maturity of a toddler.
Do you ever do this? We may not throw ourselves onto the floor, but we feel resentful and disappointed with God when things don’t go our way. We pray while giving God a bit of a side eye, holding onto hard feelings because our previous prayers haven’t been answered to our liking. We all sometimes fail to trust that God wants good things for us even more than we want them for ourselves.
When this happens, we should try our hardest to better understand God’s will for us. But we should be patient with ourselves during these trials, always remembering that our God is a merciful father.
When I struggle to trust God in the face of seemingly unanswered prayers, one of my favorite saints to turn to is St. Anne. She knows a thing or two about practicing patience while trusting in God’s goodness. She and her husband Joachim were married for decades before God finally answered their fervent prayers for a child. And then, what a child he sent her! What a magnificent plan he had for St. Anne’s motherhood, for her daughter’s motherhood, and for the glory they would bring to God together.
She couldn’t have known what the future would bring. In all the years that St. Anne prayed for a child and God seemed to tell her no, she couldn’t have known the much bigger and better things God had in mind for her family. And yet she trusted. She didn’t give up hope. She persisted.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton persisted too. She didn’t live a cushy life of always-answered prayers. She lived a life filled with grief, loss, young widowhood, illness, poverty, and all manner of earthly hardship.
There were certainly points during these dark times when she struggled to accept God’s plan for her life. Yet, in faith, she persisted.
“All God asks of us is the heart,” Mother Seton once wrote in a letter.
And it really is that simple. Our God is a good God who sent his son to save us, who suffered and died a horrific death, bleeding on the cross, out of an incomprehensible, personal love for each of us. All he asks for in return is our heart. He wants each of us to place ourselves willingly in his loving care.
Elizabeth and I share something in common. Both of us bear the name “Anne” as our middle name. In this small one-syllable name, I find a perpetual reminder of the goodness of God.
With a gentle, grandmotherly nudge, St. Anne helps me to see her example of long, patient suffering and the rich blessings with which God waited to reward her.
And St. Elizabeth Ann reminds me to be faithful to God in all things, and to give him the gift of our whole selves. She stepped out in faith time after time in her life. She never lost hope in the goodness of a God who loved her and was calling her ever closer to Him.
And that is the simple, but not easy, task God sets before us each day.
On July 26th, the Feast of Saints Anne and Joachim, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I hope you will join me in praying to St. Anne and Mother Seton. Together, let us ask these valiant women of faith to shower us with motherly and grandmotherly love. May their steadfast examples of trust in the Lord strengthen our faith and our resolve to give God all that he asks for: our hearts.
DANIELLE BEAN is a writer and popular speaker on Catholic family life, parenting, marriage, and the spirituality of motherhood. She is the former publisher and editor-in-chief of Catholic Digest, and the author of several books for women including Momnipotent, You’re Worth It! and her newest book, You Are Enough. She is also creator and host of the Girlfriends podcast. Learn more at DanielleBean.com.
This reflection was previously published. To view all Seton Reflections, click here.
Image: St. Anne & Child Mary, by Luca Giordano