For the vast majority of Americans the names of the saints we celebrate today are known only in Spanish and not known as saints' names. If I say San Joaquin I dare say most think of a valley. If I say Santa Anna, most will say wind. But long before these usages Christians remembered these as the names of the parents of Mary. In English we call them Joachim and Anne.
Is it in the Bible? No, but Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, and Muslims believe it to be true. Here we run up again against the tendency of some to reject anything that is not in the Bible. We forget that this very narrow view of truth is a relatively new phenomenon in Christianity.
The Bible contains all that necessary for salvation. That is to say, if all I knew of Jesus was what was contained in the Bible I would have the minimum necessary for salvation. But which of us is, or should be, content with minimum? Since the beginning the Church has sought to know all it can about Jesus and those around him, in a very special way his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. We continue to use every tool at our disposal to understand the lives of those first disciples, and the world in which they lived. Jesus used metaphors taken from everyday life to teach. The better we understand that life the better we can understand what he meant.
Can you get into heaven without believing that Joachim and Anne are names of Mary's parents? Of course you can. But again I ask, why would I not want to know everything I can about those around Jesus? After all, how often did grandma take care of him? How many things did he learn from grandpa?
Our families shape who we are. One of the realities we face when we hit middle age is how much we, like it or not, turn into our parents. And in modern America the grandparents are playing a more and more important role often filling in for the parents. Today as we celebrate Joachim and Anne, let us pray for all the grandparents, especially those who find themselves with overwhelming responsibility that they may have the strength and grace they need.