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The Grandmothers of Christmas

While I am taking down some of my Christmas decoration, I leave the Nativity set on our mantel up until February 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas. So, before the Christmas season is totally over, I wanted to give a shout-out to two of my favorite mommy saints.

Saint Anne

We don’t know if St. Anne was alive when Jesus was born. Tradition seems to suggest that she and St. Joachim had passed before the coming of their Savior Grandson. By the time that first Christmas came, they were awaiting Holy Saturday, when Jesus would victoriously escort them to the Eternal Kingdom of God.

Nonetheless, that does not mean that St. Anne did not have a role to play in her Grandson’s life.

Though immaculately conceived and perfect, Mary was still formed by her mother. St. Anne, by her example, showed Mary how to be a mother. Our Lady’s motherhood reflected her own mother’s maternity.

Most pictures and statues of St. Anne have her Daughter at her side with a book or scroll in her hand. What a beautiful reminder that, as mothers, we are the primary educators of our children.

It is not an ABC book or a scroll of colors in St. Anne’s hand, though. Anne is reading Scriptures to Mary. Mary knew Scriptures. Her Magnificat is a song of praise flowing with Scriptural references. A parent’s utmost responsibility is to teach children to know, love, and serve God. This sacred duty affects generations.

So, while St. Anne was not there to midwife Mary through the delivery of Jesus and probably wasn’t even there to help Mary and Joseph pack for the trip to Bethlehem, the impression she left on the Blessed Mother would have a lasting effect on the Holy Family.

Grandmothers set the tone for family life. They hand down tradition. They spread love. These matrons are so invaluable to the foundation of the domestic church that they were given their own patron – Jesus’ own grandmother, St. Anne.

Saint Ludmilla

Who is St. Ludmilla, you ask, and why is she a grandmother of Christmas? Well, anyone whose grandson has a Christmas carol named after him deserves to be considered a grandmother of Christmas.

St. Ludmila is the grandmother of Good King Wenceslaus.

Duchess Ludmila and her husband Borivoj, I, Duke of Bohemia were converted to Christianity by the famous apostle to the Slavs, St. Methodius. They were the first Czech rulers to come to the Faith.

The enthusiasm of the two new converts, however, failed to win over their pagan subjects. They faced so much opposition that they were exiled from their own country. In their absence, chaos ensued, and not long afterwards, they were asked to return. Peace was restored.

After her husband’s death, Ludmila retired to a castle outside of the kingdom. But when it became clear to her that her son and daughter-in-law had no intention of raising their sons as Christians, she asked that the eldest boy, Wenceslaus, be allowed to live with her. Ludmila tutored and raised her grandson. Thus, the grandmother was able to ensure that the boy learned and lived the faith.

Upon his return to rule his kingdom, Wenceslaus’ pagan mother, Drahomira, despised the grandmother’s good influence on her son so much that she hired two assassins to murder the elderly lady. Ludmila was found in her bedroom strangled by her own veil. The Church considers Ludmila a martyr of the Faith.

By her life and death, Ludmila won the graces for her grandson to follow in her footsteps. Not only did he live a good Christian life, but eventually, Wenceslaus would also be martyred - by his own brother, Boleslaus.

We get a glimpse of how the saintly grandmother inspired the King from the Christmas carol in which he is immortalized.

On the day after Christmas, the feast of St. Stephen, Good King Wenceslaus spies a poor peasant gathering wood on a cold, snowy evening. Quickly, the King, calling a servant, has a meal which included meat and wine prepared for the poor man. Then, he and his page set out to find their guest. As the night grows colder and wind more bitter, the page fears he cannot go on. The king tells the young servant to walk in his footsteps, thus blocking the wind and providing tracks in which to follow.

The last verse declares a blessing on those who, indeed, follow the King’s example:

Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing. 

St. Wenceslaus not only died for the Faith, he lived it. Truly, he understood what it meant to be a Christian. St. Ludmila taught her grandson well.

Being a mother is a never-ending vocation. The role changes some as the children grow. If God so chooses, the title and responsibility of grandmother is added. Our charge to spread God’s love and faith in Him continues into a new generation. There are grandmothers in heaven eager to help us maintain our mission.

St. Anne, pray for us.

St. Ludmila, pray for us.

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