AT Saint Anne de Beaupré, a small town on the St. Lawrence River, about twenty-three miles below Quebec, is located a Roman Catholic shrine. To this shrine more than one hundred and fifty thousand “pilgrims” will resort during the year 1894. Some will come from the United States, but a majority are French Catholics from the Catholic Province of Quebec. Excursionists or “pilgrims” flock to the shrine of “St. Anne,” by boat and by rail, led by their parish priest, and on landing march to the church, chanting the litany with pious ardor. They bring with them the maimed, the sick, the halt, and the blind, believing that “St. Anne” will cure them. On the arrival of a pilgrimage they immediately arrival of a pilgrimage they immediately repair to the church of “St. Anne,” where mass is celebrated for their benefit, and then begins the worship of “St. Anne.”
But who is “St. Anne”? Let a book entitled, “Manual of Devotion to Good St. Anne,” containing the official indorsement of “Cardinal Taschereau, Archbishop of Quebec,” answer: “St. Anne is the mother of the mother of God” (p. 73), “the mother of Mary and the grandmother of Jesus” (p. 71), “who from all eternity was more agreeable to God than all other mothers, the Blessed Virgin excepted.” p. 132. Where does the cardinal get this astonishing information? Let the book again reply:—
The sacred Scriptures speak very little of many holy personages whose destiny was bound up with the work of our redemption. A single page would contain all that is directly related therein of the Blessed Virgin, and scarcely is St. Joseph mentioned at all, while the life, the virtues, and even the name of St. Anne has been left in complete oblivion. The ever blessed and beloved name of St. Anne has been transmitted to us only by tradition and by the gratitude of Christian nations (p. 70).
But why make pilgrimages to St. Anne de Beaupré? Why ask “St. Anne” to heal the sick? Is “St. Anne” at Beaupré? Oh, no; only “a notable fragment of a finger bone of St. Anne” (p. 73). Where was it obtained?
St. Anne, after her holy death, was buried near Jerusalem; but later on her sacred remains were deposited in the church of the “sepulchre of our lady” in the valley of Jehoshaphat. During the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan, in the first century of Christendom, the venerable body of St. Anne, or rather the greater portion of it, was brought over to the town of Apt, in the diocese of Avignon (France) where it is still held in deep veneration.
Concerning the removal of these precious remains, it is reported that one day a mysterious bark was seen to approach the shores of France. It had neither sail nor rudder, but God was its pilot. Never had the ocean borne a greater treasure. For in the bark were St. Lazarus, with his pious sisters, St. Mary Magdalene and St. Martha, together with several other saintly women. They were fleeing from Palestine, their country, carrying away with them [a] number of priceless relics, the most precious among which was the hallowed body of St. Anne…. However, on account of the reigning persecutions, St. Anne’s body had to be buried in the ground to protect it against sacrilegious hands, and at length the place where it had been secreted was wholly forgotten. Pp. 1-4.
Not to weary the reader longer with details, this Cardinal-indorsed story goes on to say that “a miracle caused the discovery of the hiding place” in 792, seven hundred years after its loss. When found, it is asserted that the case bore the words: “Here lies the body of St. Anne, mother of the Glorious Virgin Mary.” From the discovered body the “notable fragment of a finger bone of St. Anne” was secured and exhibited at Beaupré in 1670. “Finally in 1891, after long and constant entreaties, the chapter of Carcassone has graciously condescended to divide into two equal parts its valuable relics of St. Anne, namely, the hand bones, and to share this priceless object with our church.” So according to this childish story there is at Beaupré, Quebec, “a fragment of a finger bone of St. Anne” and the half of her “hand bones.” This is the reason a hundred and fifty thousand “pilgrims” will visit the place this year, and prostrate themselves on the floor before a glass case containing a part of the relic, and crowd, as the writer has seen, like sheep at a salt lick, around this decaying fragment of mortality, hoping to kiss the glass that covers it. The blind, the halt, and the maimed, aided by friends and relatives, struggle to touch, not the hem of the garment of Jesus, “who ever liveth to make intercession for us,” but the decaying “fragment of the finger bone” of the “grandmother of Jesus.” More anon.