The New Testament tells us nothing at all about the family life and background of Mary. In the middle of the second century, an anonymous writer produced The Protevangelium of James (Gospel of James). While this document claims to have been written by James, the brother of Christ it has been proven to be from the 2nd Century well after his death, so is a work of pious fiction, it provides all the elements for the later development of the theology and worship of Mary in the Roman Catholic church. The subject of the document is primarily the miraculous birth of Mary. She is described as the daughter of the wealthy Joachim and his wife Anne. The story is taken as far as the birth of Jesus. The author draws extensively on the birth stories of Jesus in Matthew and Luke, and constructs the story of Anne very much on the model of Hannah, the mother of Samuel. Even the name, Anne (or Anna), is a variant of Hannah.
According to this legend Anne and Joachim are a devout and righteous couple, but childless. Then both are visited by angels and told that Anne will bear a child. After the child’s birth she is called Mary and at the age of two is taken to the Temple. Mary was brought up in the Tem-ple and was one of the seven virgins who made the veil of the Temple. She was eventually betrothed to Joseph, a respected widower. The story then leads into a somewhat embellished version of the familiar accounts of the birth of Jesus.
The development of Anne’s cult was affected by the growing cult of the Virgin Mary in the later Middle Ages, which fostered interest in Mary’s own family. The facts remain however that despite the probably false stories seeded by the fiction of the ‘Gospel of James’; Anne was the mother of Mary and Elizabeth (John the Baptist mother) and therefore she was Grandmother of both our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and his cousin John the Baptist, therefore we respectfully honour and remember her today.