St. Anne's Church, the pontifical parish in the Vatican, celebrated the feast of its patroness and her husband on Monday. During Mass to mark the occasion, the cardinal vicar general of the Vatican prayed that Christian families would "wake up" and fulfill their purpose by openly loving each other and bearing witness to the faith.
Two cardinals presided over Eucharistic celebrations on the Vatican parish's special day. Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Vicar General of Vatican City, said noon Mass, while Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, presided over a late afternoon celebration.
During his homily at noon, Cardinal Comastri called for all Christian families to live their faith openly as an example in this time in history when, using the words of John Paul II, "an atom bomb has exploded" within the family.
In a world "continually penetrated by messages ... and examples against the family," he said that he felt the duty to reflect on the family and address the role of each of us in protecting it.
He compared the widespread damage done with the collapse of a family to that caused to so many innocent people in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or even the collapse of a building.
Underscoring the importance of love, not possessions or status, for building strong families, he pointed out that "The most beautiful gift a father can give his children is loving their mother," employing a thought from the John Paul II. "And, the most beautiful gift a mother can give her children is loving their father
"How much wisdom in these words!" he exclaimed.
Recounting an anecdote about Mother Teresa, he said that before knowing the love of God, she had already known His love through the "clear and faithful love" of her mother and father.
"This is how the family of St. Joachim and St. Anne must have been with their love," the cardinal remarked.
"Today we are truly living an emergency of the family. We pray that parents, that all Christian families will wake up again, that every Christian family might become missionary, that every Christian home (will) announce that which is God's plan for the family, that they courageously give witness to it with their own lives.
"There will come a day when (people) will come to knock on the doors of the true families," said Cardinal Comastri, "and they will ask, 'Tell us your secret because we no longer know what family is.'
This, he concluded in a voice marked with emotion, is "our mission ... and the mission of true families.
"May Sts. Joachim and Anne help us."
For this year's feast, Cardinal Comastri also composed, in Italian, a prayer to ask for the intercession of St. Anne on behalf of expectant mothers, parents committed to the education of their children, couples experiencing difficulties, children, widows and the elderly.