Did you see that Pope Francis has designated Saints Joachim and Ann, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as “patrons of grandparents?”

Bravo, Holy Father! No surprise, as you have so often lovingly and tenderly spoken of your “Nona Rosa,” your grandma, who had such an influence on you.

I bring this up because their feast day is later this month, Monday, July 26.

So do I praise God for our grandparents!

My own sure had a potent impact on me. While I can barely remember my dad’s father, William Timothy Dolan, who died when I was but seven, and never knew my mom’s dad, I sure bask in the memories of Martha Mary Troy Dolan (“Nonnie Martie” to me) and Lucille Radcliffe (“Nonnie Lu” to me). Both have now gone to the Lord.

The older I get, the more I treasure them.

Now, of course, I see how my own mom—a grandma and great-grandma—loves her grandchildren; and I even watch how my sisters, Deb and Lisa, and my brother, Bob, love their grandkids.

While it’s not the same, I realize how close I am to my nieces, nephew, and grandnieces and grandnephews.I just had a house full of them as Hayley, my niece, married Blake in Our Lady’s Chapel at St. Patrick’s. I’m still picking up toys and empty wrappers all over the house— even a stack of unused diapers—but it was sure worth hosting them!

I marvel at how essential our grandparents are to us. Our Latino community, and our African-American families, have a special bond with their grandparents. When I visit our wonderful Catholic schools, I so admire the presence of abuelas, the grandmothers, who walk the children to school and take them home afterwards.

As a seminarian back in 1974, a group of us traveled to Russia. This was the height of communist oppression, with religion particularly harassed and under wraps. We were able to pray at a monastery, and enjoyed a conversation with the monks. In guarded tones they told us how all instruction in the faith was outlawed.

“Well, who passes on the faith to the children?” one of us asked.

The Russian monks replied, indicating that the answer was a no-brainer, “Why, the grandparents, of course!” That was not just true in communist Russia. That is a constant in the entire Church.

One of my favorite images of Ss. Joachim and Ann shows Jesus, a boy of four or five, sitting on a carpet between them. In the background are St. Joseph, busy with a hammer in the carpenter’s shop, and Mary, at the hearth. But Joachim and Ann are unrolling a scroll, explaining the Hebrew scriptures to Jesus.

My own mom and dad were sure careful about raising us in the faith, but it was Nonnie Martie who taught me the Rosary, and Nonnie Lu who taught me to light a candle at St. James Parish in St. Louis.

Grandparents: Happy Feast day! We love you! We need you! We thank you.

As the old saying goes, “Sure, God is everywhere. But, He’s busy, so, He sends us grandparents to fill in for him sometimes.”