Pope: Amid crises and war, grandparents' prayers can transform the world
By Deborah Castellano Lubov
Pope Francis says aging is not a condemnation, but a blessing, and that even if society or our own frailties may tempt us to think otherwise, we are invaluable and God wants us to persevere in hope!
This encouragement was at the heart of the Message released Tuesday for the 2nd World Day of Prayer for Grandparents and the Elderly, which falls this year on 24 July.
The Church observes the World Day each year on the fourth Sunday in July, close to the feast of Jesus' grandparents, Saints Joachim and Anne.
Pope Francis instituted this World Day in 2021 since grandparents are often forgotten, but yet "are the link between generations, passing on the experience of life and faith to the young."
In this year's message, the Pope drew largely upon his catecheses on old age, the family and St. Joseph.
Society implies the elderly are useless
The Pope recalled the Psalmist's words that “In their old age they still bring forth fruit” (Ps 92:14). These words, the Pope said, are glad tidings and "a true “'gospel'” that we can proclaim, and which "run counter to what the world thinks about this stage of life..."
Many people are afraid of old age, the Pope said, recognizing they consider it "a sort of disease" with which any contact is best avoided. "The elderly, they think, are none of their concern and should be set apart, perhaps in homes or places where they can be cared for, lest we have to deal with their problems," he lamented.
Even by those "of us" who are already experiencing old age, the 85-year-old Pope acknowledged, it is not a time of life easily understood. On one hand, the Pope said, we are tempted to ward off old age and preserve our youth, "while on the other, we imagine that the only thing we can do is bide our time, thinking glumly that we cannot 'still bring forth fruit.”'
He notes that retirement and grown children make many things that used to occupy the elderly's time and energy no longer so pressing, while diminishing strength and the onset of sickness leave us feeling uncertain.
"The fast pace of the world – with which we struggle to keep up – seems to leave us no alternative but to implicitly accept the idea that we are useless," he said.
Must persevere in hope
That same psalm, which meditates on how the Lord has been present at every stage of our lives, the Pope said, "urges us to persevere in hope."
For this reason, the Pope said, we ought to take care of ourselves and remain active in our later years, also from a spiritual standpoint.
Pope Francis' recommendations on how to stay active
The Pope then offered some suggestions on how to do so.
These things, the Pope said, "will help us not to feel like mere bystanders, sitting on our porches or looking out from our windows, as life goes on all around us." Instead, "we should learn to discern everywhere the presence of the Lord," the Holy Father said.
The Pope encouraged them to take an active role in the revolution of tenderness.
Grandparents' prayers can transform a world in crises
Our world is passing through a time of trial and testing, beginning with the sudden, violent outbreak of the pandemic, and then by a war that is harming peace and development on a global scale. Nor is it a coincidence that war is returning to Europe at a time when the generation that experienced it in the last century is dying out.
These great crises risk anaesthetizing us to the reality of other “epidemics” and other widespread forms of violence that menace the human family and our common home. All this points to the need for a profound change, a conversion.
We grandparents and elderly people, the Pope stated, have a great responsibility: "to teach the women and men of our time to regard others with the same understanding and loving gaze with which we regard our own grandchildren." Since the elderly have grown in humanity by caring for others, "now we can be teachers of a way of life that is peaceful and attentive to those in greatest need," he said.
We have a responsibility to protect the world, the Pope insisted.
“Our grandparents," he reminded, "held us in their arms and carried us on their knees; now is the time for us to carry on our own knees – with practical assistance or with prayer alone – not only our own grandchildren but also the many frightened grandchildren whom we have not yet met and who may be fleeing from war or suffering its effects," he said.
Enduring 'chorus' of a great spiritual sanctuary
Many of us have come to a sage and humble realization of what our world very much needs: the recognition that we are not saved alone, and that happiness is bread we break together.
The Pope encouraged the elderly to be "poets of prayer," stressing, "Our trustful prayer can do a great deal: it can accompany the cry of pain of those who suffer, and it can help change hearts."
Pope Francis invited them to join him in being "the enduring ‘chorus’ of a great spiritual sanctuary, where prayers of supplication and songs of praise sustain the community that toils and struggles in the field of life."
Living the World Day concretely
The World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, the Pope said, "is an opportunity to proclaim once more, with joy, that the Church wants to celebrate together with all those whom the Lord – in the words of the Bible – has 'filled with days.'"
"Let us celebrate it together!" he said.
The Pope concluded his message for World Day with an invitation to pray to the Blessed Mother.
The Holy Father gave his blessing, reassured his closeness and affection, and reminded them not to forget to pray for him.