Hannah and Ann are two great and holy mothers of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Hannah is the precursor to Ann. The Hebrew name Hannah means “grace,” and the name “Ann,” another form of the name “Hannah,” also means “grace.”
Hannah lived in Old Testament times, in the Twelfth Century BC, and her story is told in the first two chapters of the First Book of Samuel, while Ann lived in New Testament times, over one thousand years later, during the late First Century BC and early First Century AD, and her story is told in the Protoevangelium of St. James, a book composed around 165 AD that is not in the Bible but a source for the Christian tradition.
Hannah was married, the faithful wife of Elkanah, and she reached old age without any children, and Ann was married, the faithful wife of Joachim, and she reached old age without any children. Hannah spent many long hours in prayer, both at home and in the Temple at Shiloh, and Ann spent many long hours in prayer, both at home and in the Temple in Jerusalem. Both begged God for a special favor, to be blessed with a child. Hannah miraculously conceived and bore a son, Samuel; and Ann miraculously conceived and bore a daughter, Mary.
Both accepted their child as a gift from God, and in response they consecrated or dedicated their child to God: Hannah presented her son Samuel to the priest Eli in the temple at Shiloh, and Ann presented her daughter Mary to the priest in the temple in Jerusalem. It was their belief that God had a special purpose for each of their children, and they pledged to raise their children so they would be prepared to cooperate with God’s will. Hannah’s son Samuel became the greatest of the Judges while Ann’s daughter Mary became the mother of Jesus the Savior.
Together, these two exceptional mothers offer great example and inspiration to the mothers of today. Marriage precedes motherhood, so it is the first duty of a mother to be a loving and faithful wife. All vocations come from God, so wives and mothers are called to be women of faith who pray regularly, both at home and in church. Christian mothers realize that each of their children is a miracle and a gift from God, and in thanks they consecrate their children to God in the Sacrament of Baptism, and then raise their children to know, love, and serve God, so when the Lord calls their child to their chosen vocation, they will be ready to respond, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening,” and then to say, “Let it be done to me according to your word.”