26.7.10

on the Feast of Saint Anne

Everyone in Brittany, and even elsewhere, knows St. Anne of Auray.

St Anne, the Mother of the Virgin Mary, has, since time forgotten, has been revered in Brittany. All we know about her we are told in apocryphal literature, that is those books which, while containing much information are not concerned with salvation and so are therefore excluded from the canon of Bible.(1) Catholic iconography comes down to us mainly from these books. Information about the early childhood and youth of Holy Mary and St Joseph other than that which we find in the Bible is found in the following books, the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Protoevangelium of James. In these books we are told that St Anne and St Joachim were the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Near the little village of Auray there existed since ancient times a chapel in honour of St Anne. Since about the 5th century she has been venerated there. Toward the end of the 7th century it was destroyed. Tradition remained alive in the area and the local village was called Keranna, which in the Breton Celt means Saint Anne.

Yves Nicolazic possessed 2 fields adjacent to each other, one was fit to plow the other was too rocky to allow a plow, and so his cows were turned out into it. This field was called by the older people the the "Chapel field". ("C’est le champs de la chapelle") This local belief was encouraged by an outcropping of rocks which appeared to form the pads of a structure. In fact Yves father had used them to construct a barn there.

In august of 1622 Yves began to have visions. He glimpsed St. Anne by the local fountain, had seen her by the cross at the moor, she travelled with him at all times and appeared in his house.

On July 25 in the summer of 1624 Yves and his brother-in-law Louis, having gone to fetch his herd which had strayed off his land into the neighbouring field, found it and on returning allowed the cow to take water at the local fountain. The cows stubbornly refused to advance. In a flash a majestic lady appeared to them bearing a torch. The Lady in the apparition said "Yves Nicolazic, do not fear. I am Anne, mother of Mary. Say to your rector that in the field called the Bocenno, there was formerly, even before there was no town, a dedicated chapel in my name. This was the first one of the whole country. 924 years and 6 months ago that it was ruined. I desire that she is rebuilt as soon as possible, and that you took some care, because God wants that I there be honored". This mandate, was accomplished but only through multiple tests and many false starts. He sufficed in fact to have received this mission, but it still remained to be recognized by the Church and especially by the parish rector, Sylvestre Roduez. Nothing was accomplished.

St Anne was not to be denied however, for on the night of 7-8 March, 1625, she appeared again to Yves and said, "Yves Nicolazic, call your neighbors, as I counseled you; take them with you to the place where this torch will take you, you will find the proof that will allow you to show the world, which will then know at last the truth of what I promised you".

Yves called upon his brother-in-law Louis, and found neighbors from the surrounding towns: Jacques Lucas, François le Bléavec, John Tanguy and Julian Lézulit (the parish churchwarden). The torch began to move. Arriving opposite the Bocenno, the torch halted over the place of the former chapel. The men began to dig as they were instructed until they found and old statue, dis- figured and damaged through being buried in the ground for 900 years. The news spread like lightening.

A crowd of the curious arrived from the area, not only of Ker Anna (Keranna) but neighboring, localities to pray and make offerings. How did they know? This remains a mystery.

A commission arrived, and took Yves to the Church where he was questioned. He stayed with the Capuchins. His story was verified. It was decided that it would be proper to reconstruct a chapel to Honour St Anne on the spot where 900 years prior a chapel existed to honour St Anne. The Bishop, Mgr. de Rosmadec, allowed a mass to be celebrated on 26 July 1625. That Mass was celebrated by Fr. Roduez.

When construction was fininshed in 1628, Yves Nicolazic had moved to Pluneret. Respected by the religious, and revered by the pilgrims, Yves Nicolazic seems to be the happiest of men. However Yves happiness is blunted by the fact that he and his wife have remained childless. Finally on 18 January 1629 Yves arrived at the door of the Church with a son to be Baptised. Two years after was born a named girl Jeanne, then another named girl Paterne.

Before dying May 13 1645, at age 63, Yves Nicolazic lives to see the promise that St. Anne had done for him. The crowds of believers and non-believers had come and continued to come. The chapel had been built, and many miracles and conversions had happened there. Keranna, his humble town had become the center of the veneration of Holy Anne and this pilgrimage already was one of the more popular ones of France. His body was buried in the Chapel of the Pilgrimage, and, as he had expressed the desire, to be buried at the same place where, twenty years beforehand, he had miraculously discovered the statue of St. Anne.

Anne of Austria and Louis XIII enriched the sanctuary with many gifts, among them a relic of St. Anne brought from Jerusalem in the thirteenth century, and in 1641 the Queen obtained from the Pope the erection of a confraternity, which Pius IX raised to the rank of an archconfraternity in 1872. In the meanwhile pilgrimages had begun and became more numerous year by year, nor did the Revolution put a stop to them. The chapel, indeed was plundered, the Carmelites who served it, were driven out, and the miraculous statue of St. Anne was burned at Vannes in 1793; yet the faithful still flocked to the chapel, which was covered with ex-votos. In 1810 the convent of the Carmelites was turned into a petit séminaire (Minor Seminary). In 1866, the Cardinal Saint Marc laid and blessed the first stone of the present magnificent basilica. Finally, in 1868, Pius IX accorded to the statue of St. Anne, before which many miracles had been wrought, the honour of being crowned. St. Anne has continued to be the favourite pilgrimage of Brittany down to the present day:

C'est notre mère à tous; mort ou vivant, dit-on,
A Sainte-Anne, une fois, doit aller tout Breton.(2)


St. Anne is patroness of women in labour; she is represented holding the Blessed Virgin Mary in her lap, who again carries on her arm the child Jesus. She is also patroness of miners, Christ being compared to gold, Mary to silver.

O Glorious Saint Ann, filled with compassion for those who invoke you and with love for those who suffer, heavily laden with the weight of my troubles, I cast myself at your feet and humbly beg of you to take the present affair which I recommend to you under your special protection [here mention silently your intentions] Please recommend it to your daughter the Blessed Virgin Mary and lay it before the Throne of Jesus so that He may bring it to a happy issue. Please continue to intercede for me until my request is granted. Above all, obtain for me the grace of one day beholding my God face to face and with you and Mary and all the Saints praising and blessing Him for all eternity. Amen.

St. Anne pray for us.

Jhesu+Marie,
Brantigny

(1) Apocryphal literature, should not be confused with the Protestant term which refers to what the Catholic Church knows as the deuterocanonical books that is the second Canon. They are seven books: Tobias (Tobit), Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, 1st and 2nd Machabees, and three documents added to protocanonical books, viz., the supplement to Esther, from 10;4, to the end, the Canticle of the Three Youths (Song of the Three Children) in Daniel 3, and the stories of Susanna and the Elders and Bel and the Dragon, forming the closing chapters of the Catholic version of that book. Of these works, Tobias and Judith were written originally in Aramaic, perhaps in Hebrew; Baruch and I Machabees in Hebrew, while Wisdom and 2nd Machabees were certainly composed in Greek. The probabilities favour Hebrew as the original language of the addition to Esther, and Greek for the enlargements of Daniel.


(2) Roughly, this is all of our mother, alive or dead all Bretons to St Anne one day must go. (Make a pilgimage once in a lifetime.)

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