July 26 – SAINT ANNE IN THE INSTITUTE
SAINT ANNE IN THE INSTITUTE
In our first Rules, St Anne had been mentioned in the list of “special protectors” of the Institute, in the same way as St Gabriel, the Guardian Angels and St Joseph (St Joachim would come in much later). Fr. Deshayes and Br. Augustin had good reasons to promote the cult of St Anne venerated at Sainte-Anne d’Auray (Morbihan) since the beginning of the 17th century: the first was the parish priest of Auray and the second was born at Baden, not far from the Breton shrine dedicated to St Anne. But it was Br. Simeon who would be in the Institute the real thurifier of the mother of the Virgin Mary. He considered himself as being miraculously saved by St Anne. In 1848, he had just left the community of Argenton-Chateau and he had hardly taken his seat in a two-wheeled convertible that it tumbled down as it was poorly tied with a rope. The horse got such a fright that it started to run, dragging the convertible, with the Brother in it, along the narrow streets and pavements of the town. When the horse came to a stop, the people were surprised to see Br. Simeon corning out quite intact. He alone was not surprised for he had kept repeating: “St Anne, save me”.
In 1859, come on pilgrimage to La Salette in the Alps, he declared having heard the Virgin tell him: “St Anne must be honoured in this high place”. He·got permission from the chaplain to have a statue of the saint to be placed on the altar of the shrine. Some days later, staying at Lorgues he learnt that the body of St Anne had been brought to Provence by the first Christians and deposited at Apt. Immediately he ran there in the hope of taking some relics from there to Saint-Laurent. The following year, in the course of a procession of some 5000 persons, these relics were placed in the chapel of St Anne that he got erected not far from the Daughters of Wisdom’s house. Two years later, he had a small oratory of St Anne built in the St Gabriel garden. He had the habit of walking on the. scaffoldings of the Mother House in construction, throwing there the medals of his preferred saint. Everyone knew about it while he was alive, even those outside of the Institute. On 14 August 1867, the chaplain of a neighbouring hospital wrote to Brother Eugene-Marie, conveying his respectful regards to Br. Simeon, “the favorite of St Anne”, and asking to have the favour of “benefiting from his prayers to St Anne for the cure of his ears”.
Br. Simeon had quite a few followers. Br. Rerny (1794-1875) who always invoked St Anne, was saved by her when he was about to get drowned in the Vienne. The Superiors General who succeeded Br. Simeon would speak of St Anne with more discretion. One of them however, Br. Sebastien, devoted seven pages to her in a circular in 1932, where he simply recalled- what more to say?- her legend according to the Apocryphal Gospels, her cult in the Church and the miracles attributed to her and, of course, Br. Simeon’s devotion to her. St Anne occupied much space in successive manuals of piety. That of 1875, besides her litanies, contained not less than four prayers in her honour (to recommend to her a sick person, a business, etc.).
While her name has disappeared from the Rule of Life, with those of other special protectors, it is always written in the hearts of Brothers, especially of those from Brittany and Canada. It was the Breton seamen who spread her cult in Canada. A shrine was dedicated at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre and she was chosen as the patron of Quebec.